The Trump Administration is considering the elimination of the J-1 Summer Work-Travel Program for students who come to tourist areas in the U.S. as temporary summer help and as participants in cultural exchanges. Like the numerical limitations placed on H-2B temporary seasonal visas, the elimination of this J-1 Summer Work-Travel Program would particularly affect the hospitality industry in areas that rely on these students to cook, wait tables, and run amusement park rides in tourist areas during the summer months.
Morey’s Pier Amusement Park in Wildwood, New Jersey, hired more than one-third of its 2017 summer workforce through the J-1 Summer Work-Travel Program. Its Director of Human Resources reported that it makes extensive efforts, including through job fairs, to hire U.S. workers, but cannot find enough people interested in the seasonal work. The Park hired 82 percent of the U.S. applicants who applied for jobs and the remaining 18 percent could not be hired because they were too young to be life guards or to serve alcohol.
Other tourist areas such as Hershey, Pennsylvania, and the Poconos also depend on the J-1 Summer Work-Travel Program. Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA), who represents Cape Cod and the Islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, is critical of the reported plan to reduce these visas for students who he believes are vital to his area’s economy.
The review and possible elimination of the J-1 Summer Work-Travel Program arises out of the “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order. The first hint that the Program might be cut was in a draft executive order that was leaked in January 2017. That draft, “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs,” was never signed or formally released. It included specific provisions questioning the desirability of the J-1 program, the L-1 visa program, the use of parole authority, and the H-1B visa program, among others. To date, the Administration has been achieving some of the goals first set forth in that draft by conducting more L-1 site visits, scrutinizing H-1B and L-1 petitions by issuing a staggering number of post-filing Requests for Evidence (RFEs), postponing (and ultimately planning to eliminate) the International Entrepreneur Rule that relied on parole authority, and, now, focusing on the possible elimination of the J-1 Summer Work-Travel Program.
According to the State Department website, “The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program [overseen by the Department of States] provides opportunities for around 300,000 foreign visitors from 200 countries and territories per year to experience U.S. society and culture and engage with Americans.” There are more than a dozen J-1 programs. Others that are reportedly being reviewed for possible elimination are the J-1 internship and au pair programs.