ACTFL Statement: New Immigration Restrictions Will Harm Language Programs and Limit Educational Opportunities for Students

CONTACT: Howie Berman
(703) 894-2900 x106

Alexandria, VA (June 23, 2020) - ACTFL strongly opposes new immigration restrictions imposed by the Trump Administration in Proclamation 10014 as amended, which will severely impact language programs in schools at all levels across the country. In particular, the J-1 and H-1B visa programs are essential for filling vacant positions in K12 and Higher Ed language programs across the U.S.

In response to the rationale put forward by the White House that new immigration restrictions are necessary to improve our economy by providing much needed jobs to Americans, ACTFL fully supports efforts to put Americans displaced by the coronavirus pandemic back to work as quickly as possible. The reality with respect to filling language teacher vacancies, however, is that our domestic workforce is currently unable to fully meet the demand for qualified language instructors at U.S. schools and institutions of higher learning. Banning non-immigrant language instructors from outside the U.S. will not help improve the economy; it will only limit educational and future career opportunities for U.S. students.

Even before the current public health emergency, many schools across the U.S. struggled to find qualified language teachers to fill open positions. Placing additional limits on H-1B and J-1 visas will make this problem much worse. According to data published by the U.S. Department of Education, foreign language is the subject area with the fourth highest teacher shortage in the nation. In 2017, 44 states and the District of Columbia reported a shortage of qualified K-12 language and/or bilingual teachers.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Commission on Language Learning, published a report in 2017 on improving language capacity in the U.S.: America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century. The report makes clear that the U.S. needs more bilingual and biliterate citizens to help ensure national security, promote economic growth, and develop the potential of every American student.

We are also seeing a growing and urgent demand in the U.S. job market for employees who are multilingual. In a recent study commissioned by ACTFL, Making Languages our Business: Addressing Foreign Language Demand Among U.S. Employers, nine out of 10 U.S. employers report a reliance on U.S.-based employees with language skills other than English, with one-third (32 percent) reporting a high dependency. Especially in these challenging times, it is critical that our educational institutions have the support and resources they need to prepare students to compete successfully in the global economy.

While the federal government seeks to impose new policies to improve the economy and put displaced Americans back to work, we believe it is important to do so without unnecessarily sacrificing critical educational opportunities for students or undermining our nation’s economic competitiveness and national security in the process. As a result, ACTFL strongly urges the Administration to reconsider this decision on J-1 and H-1B visas, either outright or by adding an exception for language educators.


Providing vision, leadership and support for quality teaching and learning of languages, ACTFL is an individual membership organization of more than 13,000 language educators and administrators from elementary through graduate education, as well as government and industry. Since its founding in 1967, ACTFL has become synonymous with innovation, quality, and reliability in meeting the changing needs of language educators and their learners. It is where the world’s educators, businesses, and government agencies go to advance the practice of language learning.

ACTFL’s professional development and career resources, events, networking opportunities, publications, research, assessment tools, support and promotion of standards, and advocacy elevate understanding and support for the value of language learning at all levels of instruction.

ACTFL’s work as a trusted, independent center of excellence empowers educators to prepare learners for success in a 21st century global society; helps government agencies build language capacity in the U.S. and abroad; and connects businesses with the resources and relationships they need to succeed.