BridgeUSA Program Receives Strong Industry Support

More than 400 organizations, including the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the IAAPA – the global association for the attractions industry, FMI – the Food Industry Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Travel Association, support the resolution introduced last week by Reps. Blake Moore (R-UT), Annie Kuster (D-NH), and Chris Pappas (D-NH). This House resolution reaffirms bipartisan Congressional support of the U.S. Department of State BridgeUSA programs—formerly the Exchange Visitor J-1 Visa Program—and confirms that these programs are vital to the economy and national interests of the United States.

“The aquatics industry truly appreciates Representatives Moore, Kuster, and Pappas for recognizing the value of exchange visitors to our nation,” said Sabeena Hickman, CAE, President and CEO of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance. “Pools and other aquatic venues provide fun and safe places for families to enjoy. The Summer Work Travel participants who work as lifeguards not only acquire valuable surveillance and rescue skills, but also fill an important role within the industry and the larger community. These lifeguards work side by side with American families in their shared mission of protecting the safety of swimmers. Their brief time in the U.S. provides a deep, daily encounter with Americans and American culture.”

“The BridgeUSA program provides exchange students from around the world the opportunity to experience and learn about the people and culture of the United States,” said Jakob Wahl, President and CEO of IAAPA. “The program enables the exchange visitors to work temporary seasonal jobs to help offset the costs associated with these cultural experiences, broadening the economic diversity of the program participants. As an added value, the exchange visitors provide a small but valuable supplement to the workforce of many seasonal IAAPA members around the country that simply can’t operate at full capacity without them. The exchange visitors are helping staff the business while adding diversity to their teams to enhance the guest experience.”

“FMI – the Food Industry Association appreciates the leadership of Congressman Moore, Congresswoman Kuster, and Congressman Pappas in reaffirming the importance of the U.S. Department of State BridgeUSA programs through their bipartisan resolution,” said Jennifer Hatcher, Chief Public Policy Officer with FMI. “FMI members who run supermarkets in resort communities across the country know firsthand the important role of the international work/travel students and the value they provide to our businesses as well as the cultural and educational experiences we are able to provide them through the program.”

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce commends Representatives Moore, Kuster, and Pappas for reintroducing their resolution expressing congressional support for the State Department’s BridgeUSA programs,” said Jon Baselice, Vice President, Immigration Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Summer Work Travel program participants help meet the critical workforce needs for many seasonal businesses across the country that would struggle to operate without them. More importantly, the cultural exchanges created by these opportunities serve as a critical soft power tool for our nation. These experiences create lifelong people-to-people connections between Americans and the international students that participate in these programs, which increases mutual understanding among our nations and helps serve our national security interests.”

“The American Hotel & Lodging Association commends Representatives Moore, Kuster, and Pappas for reintroducing their bipartisan resolution in support of the State Department’s BridegUSA programs. Americans are planning more hotel stays and vacations this summer than they did in the summer of 2022, and that is great news for the lodging industry and its employees,” says Chip Rogers, President & CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “The hotel industry thrives because our employees are as global as our guests. We have always been a major employer of immigrants, and we also rely on vital legal guest worker and visitor programs like BridgeUSA to augment our workforce.”

The BridgeUSA programs were created alongside the Peace Corps and U.S. Agency for International Development during the Cold War to promote the diplomatic and foreign affairs goals of the United States, which the State Department still advances in administering BridgeUSA as federal cultural exchange programs. The programs make travel to the United States possible for a broad and diverse group of approximately 300,000 international students and young people from 200 countries and territories each year.