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J-1 Visa Program Safe Until November

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton...
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Japanese Foreign Seiji Maehara hold a joint press availability in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

May 04, 2012
Jennifer Canfield/KMXT

There will be no effective changes to the J-1 Visa program until at least November, announced the U.S. State Department today. The program allows businesses- in Alaska, mainly canneries- to hire foreign workers. The program has been under fire since last fall when hundreds of J-1 student workers at a Hershey's chocolate plant in Pennsylvania walked out in protest of working conditions.

Both Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich lauded the decision saying it was paramount to keeping canneries in Alaska operating....

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Murkowski Welcomes J-1 Visa Approach
Changes Will Not Hurt Alaska’s Seafood Industry This Season

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. State Department today announced changes to the J-1 summer visa program will not prohibit Alaska’s seafood processing facilities from utilizing the program until at least November 2012. Senator Murkowski had the following response to the decision:

 “Alaskans place the highest priority on hiring state residents; that’s why our unemployment rate is below the national average. But seafood processors tell me the J-1 visa program allows them to add critical seasonal staff when Alaska workers aren’t available. Changing that program without an opportunity for all interested parties to comment and time for the industry to adapt is not appropriate.

“I’m disappointed that the Administration is implementing some significant changes without the typical formal notice and comment period, but pleased they realized an immediate prohibition would be disruptive to summer salmon fisheries across the state.
“Alaska’s seafood amounted to nearly half of the state’s exports last year.  Today’s decision signifies that the Administration heard our concerns about the workforce seafood processors are counting on for the upcoming season, and that they will be allowed to do their jobs.”

(Senator Murkowski’s recent interactions with the administration are attached.)