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Sen. Heinrich and Sen. Lujan Support Extending Exchange Educators' Stay For Rural Benefit


US Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico introduced bipartisan legislation with US Senator John Thune of South Dakota, to support education in rural communities by allowing teachers on a J-1 visa to waive their two-year return home requirement and work up to five years in the U.S., if they enter into a contract with their employing school.

Foreign exchange teachers on three-year J-1 teaching visas fill important gaps in the educator workforce, particularly in rural, tribal, and bilingual education settings. Exchange visitor (J-1) visas are nonimmigrant visas for individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs, which by design require workers and students to return to their home country for at least two years before seeking a new visa or green card.

The legislation would permit governors and Tribal entities to petition the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to extend up to 30 J-1 visas for teachers serving highly rural and tribal areas.

Senator Heinrich said, “New Mexico's kids deserve an equal shot at success. To achieve that, they need consistent, qualified educators in their classrooms. This bill will help ensure the teachers many of our rural and Tribal schools rely on can continue to serve our communities, as we also work to grow our state’s educator workforce pipeline.”

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

Senator Luján said “In every community, students deserve qualified teachers that consistently show up for them and their education, especially on rural and Tribal lands. I’m proud to help introduce this bipartisan bill that will extend protections for foreign exchange teachers who have already been supporting Tribal and rural students' education while helping fill gaps in the educator workforce.”

The legislation is supported by the National Congress of American Indians, The National Indian Education Association and the Navajo Preparatory School, among others Native entities.

Shantar Baxter Clinton is the hourly News Reporter for KSFR. He’s earned an Associates of the Arts from Bard College at Simons Rock and a Bachelors in journalism with a minor in anthropology from the University of Maine.