Cuts to Visa Program Could End Shoulder Season at Jersey Shore

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Plans released by the Trump Administration to eliminate or cut the Summer Work Travel program for exchange students could affect Cape May County’s tourism industry.

Thousands of people working at the Jersey shore every summer come from overseas.

“The Summer Work Program, some refer to it as the J1 Visa program, is a program that brings international students to the United States to work during their summer break from college,” said Vicki Clark, president of the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce.

Students from all over the world are working at places like McDonald's and ShopRite. But Morey’s Piers on the Wildwood Boardwalk also utilizes the program to employ a third of the staff working at its seaside attractions.

“It’s a short-term Visa," said Denise Beckson, director of operations and human resources at Morey’s Piers. "They can only come work during their break from university and then they go home. It’s supplemental workforce for our seasonal tourism industry. We don’t have enough local people to fill all of our positions.”

J-1 Visa Program at Risk Jersey Shore Trump When Americans go back to school, these students step up to make a shoulder season possible. But, the program may soon be no more.

“The White House has issued a directive to the Department of State to consider this program for drastic cuts or perhaps elimination as early as September,” said Clark.

“It would really have a devastating impact on the tourism industry," said Beckson. "I think that we would have to reduce our season."

And possibly reduce operating hours at the three piers which would, in turn, reduce revenue.

“With reduced operation comes reduce revenues and that means we can’t afford to employ as many people year-round as we do,” said Beckson.

“If this program is eliminated it will trickle down and effect local people who live here in Cape May County and depend on those jobs as well,” said Clark.  

Veronika Malcova is from the Czech Republic and has been working as a lifeguard at one of the waterparks at Morey’s this summer.

“I’m so [pleased] I can be here because I didn’t try something like this before and I think this program moved me to [the] front in my life,” said Malcova.

“What really makes the summer special is meeting everybody from Europe and Africa and [other continents]," said Jonathan LaSalle, a Hatboro, Pennsylvania native working at Morey’s this summer. "It’s just awesome meeting those people.”

“They love this program, they love J1 students because everyone learns a lot in the school," said Malcova. "But, this you can’t learn in a school. It’s an original program.”

With the program in jeopardy, there is one thing you can do to help save it.

“We are working to get as much attention to this program and the threat to the program," said Clark. "We are asking people to call the White House, call Secretary Tillerson’s office."

“Right now, they can call their congressman and legislator and let them know that this is an important program,” said Beckson.

An important program that these people believe benefits the entire local economy. 

Related: Wildwood Hotel Motel Association Supports Keeping J-1 Visa Program Intact

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