Worries on LI Over the Future of the J-1 Visa

This is the second summer in a row Luka Koprivica has come from Montenegro on the J-1 visa program to work at Hellenic Snack Bar in East Marion. (Photo by Rachel Siford via Times Review)

The J-1 work visa program, which lets 100,000 students from abroad work in the U.S. over the summer, could be drastically reduced or eliminated altogether in light of President Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order. While nothing has been confirmed so far, some North and South Fork residents working in the tourism, hospitality and food industries have concerns about what ending the program could mean for their business.

According to Christopher Walsh of East Hampton Star, who spoke to South Fork business owners:

The Wall Street Journal reported on Aug. 27 that an interagency group set up by the White House is focusing on employment aspects of the J-1 visa, including its Summer Work Travel program. (…)

Chris Gosman, a manager at the Topside, Inlet Cafe, and Clam Bar restaurants at Gosman’s Dock in Montauk, told Walsh that they need those students to work as servers, busers and cashiers as they “don’t have a local labor force capable of filling these jobs.” While many American students filled those roles alongside Irish students on a J-1 visa three decades ago, that’s no longer the case. American students “occasionally” come, he said, “but it’s very rare.”

Many of the J-1 employees at the Gosman’s restaurants hail from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and in recent years Gosman’s Dock has employed citizens of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Poland, Ireland, Romania, and Russia, Mr. Gosman said.

Keith Davis, the owner of Golden Pear Cafe, agreed:

“Demand for seasonal employees is tremendous,” Mr. Davis said, and the J-1 Summer Work Travel program “is definitely an effective solution, not only for the Hamptons but from Kennebunkport all the way to Virginia Beach. There are just not enough applicants that will fill those positions. For the administration to assume or even suggest that Americans are losing these jobs is absolutely ridiculous. It’s not true at all.”

Not all the business owners interviewed by Walsh worried about the potential loss of the J-1 visa program. See how one restaurant owner finds much of his staff without having to go through the program, in the full story.

George Giannaris of Hellenic Snack Bar and Restaurant went so far as to post a view on YouTube and Facebook asking the public to urge their representatives to prevent the elimination of the J-1 visa. In a story that appeared in Riverhead News-Review about the concerns of North Fork business owners, Rachel Siford writes:

Mr. Giannaris used to turn away over 30 U.S. citizens for waitstaff positions at his restaurant, but this year he was only able to hire four. He said he’d rather hire U.S. citizens because it’s easier for him, but that’s just not an option anymore. This is the second year Mr. Giannaris has participated in the J-1 program.

The reporter also speaks to a J-1 recipient from Montenegro, Luka Koprivica, who has worked at Hellenic Snack Bar for two summers. For his thoughts on the possible end of the program, and those of local congressman Lee Zeldin, go to Riverhead News-Review.

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