Vermont’s Workforce Shortage Could Benefit from Expediting J-1 Visa Applications

This week, the Vermont Chamber worked with longtime member The Tyler Place to advocate for an expedited process for J-1 Visas for eight workers from the United Kingdom that are critical to the success of this multi-generation family resort that hosts nearly 70 families each week, employing hundreds of staff.

Vermont’s aging demographics have been a concern for years, and the pandemic has increased the hiring woes for employers. Unemployment numbers show 30,000 fewer Vermonters in the workforce compared to the pre-pandemic numbers, with one third of those fully retired from the workforce. Many businesses express optimism for a robust tourism season for summer and fall, however, they are also concerned that the ongoing workforce shortage could constrain that rebound. While the Vermont Chamber advocated to lift the work search requirement for collecting unemployment and that is now slated for mid-May, that is only one piece of a complex hiring puzzle.

A recent Washington Post article discussed this trend stating, “As vaccinated Americans start to get comfortable traveling again, popular summer destinations are anticipating a busy season. But hotel, restaurant and retail store owners warn that staffing shortages exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic could force them to limit occupancy, curtail hours and services or shut down facilities entirely just as they’re starting to bounce back from a grim year.”

In 2019, Vermont hosted 1,792 international college students who worked in seasonal positions, providing critical support to local businesses. In 2020, only 22 participants were able to come to Vermont. Normally, over 70% of Summer Work Travel participants would have visa appointments by now. This year, it is less than 5%.

The Vermont Chamber is advocating to expedite this process so that lodging properties and other hospitality businesses across the state can take full advantage of the ability to welcome tourists this summer and fall. If you hire J-1 Visa holders, please contact Vermont Chamber Membership Engagement Director Sophia Yager to provide a status update so that we can support your business.