Sponsoring bodies of the J1 summer visa programme, popular with many Irish third level students, have changed the requirements of the visa to now include a pre-arranged work placement as part of the application process. 

Under the new rules students must provide evidence of secured employment before entering the United States. 

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, has voiced concern over the changes to the programme.

Minister Flanagan described the visa scheme as a "rite of passage for many young Irish students and has played an important and positive role in strengthening the Ireland-US relationship."

In a statement he said changes to the requirements "may prove challenging for many students and this may in turn impact on the numbers of students participating in the programme."

He said he raised the matter with senior members of the US Administration during his visit to the US last month and he has also written to Secretary of State Kerry outlining his concerns.

He said his department and the Irish Embassy in Washington will monitor the impact of the changes closely and will remain in contact with the US State Department and relevant bodies on the issue.

The US Embassy to Ireland released a statement in response to the new terms of the scheme today saying "The global pre-placement policy announced by these sponsoring agencies will require prospective Irish J1 participants to provide evidence of a pre-arranged job in the U.S. as part of their J1 applications, prior to their travel to the U.S."

The statement said the new requirement is designed to "ensure safety and security of participants, greater compliance, and a more rewarding cultural experience in the United States.”

The statement also said "The State Department, including the U.S. Embassy in Ireland, is fully committed to working with the Irish government; independent U.S. and Irish implementing institutions; and Irish young people and their parents to ensure that Irish students continue to have full opportunity to benefit from the J-1 SWT Program for many years to come."