Ski Resorts Worry About Cuts To Student Exchange Visa Program

Aug 29, 2017

The Vermont ski industry is worried about the Trump Administration's review of the J-1 visa exchange program which allows resorts to hire some foreign workers.

The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that President Trump is eyeing cuts to the cultural exchange program that lets college students come into this country to work during the winter.

Ski Vermont President Parker Riehle says the potential cuts are coming at a very tough time for the industry, as resorts are getting ready for the approaching winter ski season.

"It couldn't be worse possible timing," Riehle says. "We're coming into the prime season for the resorts filling out their employment needs for the coming season. They're launching job fairs as we speak, and right on into October they're going to be full-on trying to fill all of those spots for the coming winter season."

About 400 foreign workers were employed at Vermont ski resorts last winter under the J-1 visa program.

Most of the foreign workers come to Vermont under the H-2B visa program, which has also been threatened under the Trump Administration.

The J-1 program is specifically focused on bringing foreign college students into the United States to "engage more broadly with Americans and share their own cultures with their U.S. host communities," the State Department says on its website.

"This program is an ambassadorship program. You get incredible  students who come on up and are enthusiastic and hard working. They go back to their home country and share the incredible experiences they've had here in Vermont," says Riehle. "If President Trump is indeed proposing to cut the J-1 program, it's a horrible idea. It's really unfortunate to see the short-sightedness of that program being cut."

In April the President signed the "Buy American and Hire American" executive order in which he said he wanted to review worker visa programs.

Members of Vermont's Congressional delegation are also asking the State Department to keep the program in place.
 

"This program is an ambassadorship program. If President Trump is indeed proposing to cut the J-1 program, it's a horrible idea. It's really unfortunate to see the short-sightedness of that program being cut." - Parker Riehle, President Ski Vermont

Earlier this month Sen. Patrick Leahy signed a letter with 16 other senators asking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to support the J-1 program.

"This public diplomacy program has a long track record of success, providing an enriching exchange experience to a diverse pool of college and university students from across the globe," the senators wrote. "It does so at no expense to the American taxpayer."

And in July Rep. Peter Welch joined 32 other members of Congress in writing a letter to Tillerson to support the visa program.