American Camp Association says J-1 visa cuts will shutter camps, put US workers out of jobs
In response to efforts by the White House to cut or eliminate J-1 Visa programs that would impact cultural exchanges at America’s summer camps, the American Camp Association (ACA) is working with its members and other supporters of the camp industry to protect the Camp Counselor and camp Summer Work Travel (SWT) programs. Plans to implement the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, signed by President Trump in April, include a directive to the State Department to consider eliminating five categories of the J-1 Visa program, which could include Camp Counselor and camp SWT categories.
From a business perspective, J-1 Visa staff members supplement a shortage of seasonal American staff. Many camps struggle to fill summer positions. They compete with local businesses, internships, and educational programs in order to find staff willing to work during the short summer season, or in the remote, rural settings where most camps are located.
A reduction in camp-related J-1 participants would result in the loss of thousands of American jobs. Without the positions filled by international staff, camps would be forced to close or downsize, as they would not be able to maintain safe staff-to-camper ratios or fill roles vital to their programming. Downsizing or closings would ultimately affect all camp jobs— 90% of which are held by U.S. citizens.
Camp closings would also trigger a tremendously negative impact on local economies, particularly those in rural areas. An economic impact study of the northeast region of the country showed more than 6,000 state licensed camps have a direct economic contribution of nearly $3.2 billion on local economies. These camps pay more than $1.1 billion in local, state, and federal income taxes. That figure, multiplied by the tens-of-thousands of camps across the country illustrates the aggregate economic impact of the camp industry.
Beyond economics, ACA points to the tremendously positive impact that international cultural exchange has on the development of children, who, through living with and learning from these staff members in the camp community, become more knowledgeable of the world and other cultures.
WYSE Travel Confederation is also urging communities and businesses to show support for the J-1 visa programme. Here is some additional information and ways you can help.