Support for Summer Work Travel Exchange Program (J-1 Visa)
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE GREATER WILDWOOD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE URGE CONGRESSMAN JEFF VAN DREW, SENATOR ROBERT MENENDEZ AND SENATOR CORY BOOKER TO SUPORT EASING TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS AND THE PRIORITIZED PROCESSING OF NONIMMIGRATION VISAS RELATING TO THE SUMMER WORK TRAVEL EXCHANGE PROGRAM
The Board of Directors from Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce urge U.S. Congressman Jeff Van Drew, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez and U.S. Senator Corey Booker to support, at the the highest possible level, the prioritization to process of nonimmigration visas for international students seeking to participate in the summer work travel programs. These international exchange programs are not only a strategic security investment for the United States as a whole, but notably bring significant economic benefit to New Jersey’s shore towns particularly, and the Wildwoods specifically. For the last year the pandemic has devastated our communities, not only in terms of the lives lost and illness suffered, but also the economic impact to our local businesses. With distribution of the vaccine in the U.S. we anticipate that more Americans will travel this year, but likely domestically. After 2020, our area businesses do not want to be put in a position to decrease their offerings because of lack of staffing. Even during high unemployment and lower tourism in 2020, local businesses had trouble filling some positions. With the accelerated distribution of the Covid vaccines, US travelers will feel more confident to travel.
As we come out of the pandemic and are given the thumbs-up to increasingly open our economies, we need to ensure that our local businesses can operate to the greatest capacity permitted in order to maximize our limited summer season. If our community is going to rebound, it will require our businesses maintaining their full-time year around employees. To do this, they must be able to fully staff as we enter our high season this year. The Summer Work Travel Program helps businesses supplement and diversify their workforce with a small, but critical, addition to their workforce. These students don’t take jobs away from Americans; they fill positions that would otherwise go unfilled and enable our businesses to operate at full capacity. The SWT students allow our local businesses to operate at times when American students aren’t available for seasonal work, on the shoulder months of the summer peak tourist season. This means that the businesses stay open longer and are able to sustain more year around employment in our community. After the tough year we have just had, this is more critical than ever to the businesses in our community. But Summer Work Travel exchange visitors will not be available to help our local businesses if Presidential Proclamation 10052 is extended past its current March 30 deadline and if processing of the nonimmigration visas for the program are not prioritized NOW.
Summer Work Travel cannot quickly ramp up at any volume. Hiring for summer programs starts as early as October of the prior year. Students must complete international representative and sponsor vetting, secure a job offer from a U.S. host employer, and then successfully complete a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. In many cases this requires lengthy travel by the participant. Visa interviews typically happen throughout the spring and into the early summer: in a typical year by the end of March 20% of participants would have already completed their visa interviews and 70% would either have visas or appointments. The longer this is delayed, the less likely it is we will have a SWT program for the summer of 2021. Without this program, the adverse economic impact to our communities and year-round residents will be devastating.
It is imperative to the economic health of the constituency and the communities in which they live that you act immediately ease travel restrictions and to support the prioritized processing of nonimmigration visas in relation SWT exchange program.