Businesses in New Jersey are hoping to save a foreign-worker program that boosts the state’s tourist industry each summer. The J-1 visa allows hundreds of foreign college students to work in New Jersey’s hotels, amusements parks, and boardwalk shops in a season when the demand for summer workers exhausts the supply. According to the State Department, almost 6,000 foreign students worked in New Jersey’s tourist industry in 2012. Another 710 worked as camp counselors, and 728 worked as interns at New Jersey-based business.
Increasing scrutiny of the J-1 visa program came after employer abuses were discovered, including a Pennsylvania temp agency that stiffed hundreds of students for overtime and paid them a sub-minimum wage. Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Press of Atlantic City that new federal rules are designed to protect foreign students from inappropriate work, and employers are supposed to expose visiting students to American culture and society. “There’s too little oversight,” Vaughan said. “The abuses are rampant.”
Congress has included the J-1 visa program in the larger debate over immigration reform. Proposed changes in the J-1 visa program would impose stricter controls, higher fees, and potential fines for sponsors who are not in compliance with J-1 regulations. However, businesses in New Jersey point to the many students who return to work the following summer as confirmation of the J-1 program’s success.
Speak immediately with an experienced immigration attorney if you are an international student with any questions or concerns regarding your J-1 visa or status. If you employ foreign students, a good immigration lawyer can answer your legal questions, address your concerns, and help you with any immigration-related legal issue. With stricter enforcement of visa regulations and heightened scrutiny of J-1 visa petitions, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced immigration attorney and get the legal help you need.