Heinrich, Luján Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Education in Rural Communities, Strengthen Educator Workforce

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M) introduced bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) 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.   

“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,” said Heinrich.  

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). 

“In every community, students deserve qualified teachers that consistently show up for them and their education, especially on rural and Tribal lands,” said Luján. “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, National Indian Education Association, Coalition of Large Tribes, Navajo Preparatory School, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and several South Dakota tribal schools, among others. 

The text of the bill is here


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