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Chamber urges members to participate in national survey on the J-1 VISA program

Sep 15, 2021 09:49AM ● By Editor
By Jim Boyd, Executive Director of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce - September 15, 2021

Participation in a national survey is needed to help ensure the United States once again supports a robust J-1 work-travel exchange visa program to help provide workers for seasonal Cook County businesses.

As you are aware, Cook County’s hospitality-oriented economy depends hugely on the availability of international workers. For smaller employers especially, the backbone of their seasonal workforce is international students on J-1 work-travel exchange visas.

In a given “normal” summer, Cook County employers welcome several hundred J-1 exchange visitors.  But in 2020 and 2021, that shrank to several dozen at most. Interexchange, a leading J-1 sponsoring agency designated by the U.S. State Department, reports that whereas Minnesota employers usually host more than 1,800 J-1 visa holders, this summer, only 257  were able to come to Minnesota – just 14 percent of a “normal” year.

Bringing the J-1 visa program back to full strength is critical to the viability of the Cook County economy. Agencies, organizations and businesses that rely on J-1 visa holders are gearing up for a full-throttle push to ensure the program comes back to full strength. 

Your help is needed in that effort. Interexchange and the Alliance for International Exchange are leading the way. They write that, “To ensure that as many participants as possible are able to safely experience American culture first-hand this winter, and again next summer, our government needs to know that the economic recovery and stability of American seasonal businesses depends on these programs.”

As a first step, Interexchange and the alliance are “surveying businesses nationwide to gather data on how the reduced number of J-1 Visa Exchange Visitors have impacted local seasonal businesses thus far.” 

We know that many Cook County businesses suffered dramatic impacts over the past two years from the absence of J-1 visa holders, and we are hopeful they all will participate in this national survey. Data from the survey will be processed so that respondents remain anonymous. Results of the survey will form a strong part of the national effort to ensure a robust J-1 program for this winter season and beyond. 

Please participate in this survey, and please share the survey link with your fellow businesses who have been affected by the shortage of J-1 work-travel exchange visa holders.

You will find the survey at this link:

Jim Boyd
Executive Director
Cook County Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 805 
Grand Marais, MN 55604
218-370-9665 (office/cell)
218-387-2466 (home)
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