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Several Native American groups are calling on lawmakers to pass a new bill that would allow governors and Tribal entities to petition to extend foreign visas for teachers serving in tribal and highly rural communities. 

Foreign exchange teachers are granted visitor (J-1) visas, which 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 allow 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. 

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The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), 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 are supporting the legislation.  

The legislation would help fill the shortage of teachers on Indian reservations and in other rural areas of the United States. 

The legislation was introduced by U.S. senators from New Mexico and South Dakota, two states with high populations of Native American students: Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD). The bill is cosponsored by Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Mike Rounds (R-SD). 

The text of the bill is here

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