Cook County Chamber of Commerce

Deadline for national survey on J1 workers is October 8

From Delaware to Alaska, from the Southwest to the Midwest, tourism communities are experiencing a labor shortage due to the lack of international workers. That is certainly the case here in Cook County, as Chamber Director Jim Boyd can attest.

Cook County businesses rely heavily on the international students that take part in the J1 Visa program. Boyd tells WTIP that in a “normal” summer, Cook County employers welcome several hundred J-1 exchange visitors. But in 2020 and 2021, that shrank to several dozen at most.

Bringing the J-1 visa program back to full strength is critical to the viability of the Cook County economy.

In fact, as Chamber Director Boyd tells WTIP, it’s not just the businesses that bring these international workers to the community. Many of the young people that come to the North Shore on a J1 Visa take part-time jobs with secondary businesses.

And, Boyd notes that many of these international workers become longtime friends of community members.

A national effort is underway to convince federal legislators of the need for increased numbers in the J1 Visa program. Interchange and the Alliance for International Exchange, organizations that help international workers obtain visas, 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.”

To obtain information on the importance of J1 Visa workers, Interexchange and the alliance are surveying businesses nationwide to gather data on how the reduced number of J-1 Visa Exchange Visitors has impacted local seasonal businesses thus far.

Boyd hopes that local businesses will take the survey to add their voices. The deadline to complete the survey is Friday, October 8.
Data from the survey will be processed so that respondents remain anonymous.

Interested business people may take the survey using this link: 2021 J-1 Exchange Visitor Host Impact Survey

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence learns more in this interview.