The J-1 cultural and educational exchange visa has been used in a variety of settings, sometimes contrary to the visa’s mission. For that reason, the federal government restricted the applications of the visa last year.
U.S. Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski said those restrictions placed pressure on the Alaskan seafood industry, which relies heavily on seasonal workers from the U.S. and abroad. To help open those opportunities again, Begich and Murkowski have presented amendments to the Senate’s immigration bill which would bring seasonal seafood workers back into the J-1 program.
Sen. Begich’s office says a fee will be charged to the industry for each guest worker, since hiring locally is still the priority.
The amendments declare Alaskan fish processing a “shortage occupation,” which means it’s usually difficult to fine enough American workers to fill all the positions.
Sen. Begich said they also included a new W-visa, for jobs that chronically fail to attract enough domestic workers. This would potentially allow fish processors to hire foreign workers for up to three years, so long as they were paid at the same rate as a domestic worker.