Utah Rep. Blake Moore on Wednesday reintroduced a bipartisan resolution with New Hampshire Rep. Annie Kuster to show support for the BridgeUSA program.
Formerly known as the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, BridgeUSA is a cultural exchange program that allows international visitors coming to the U.S. to get a visa to study or to work in a short-term position. Those who use the program include exchange students, college professors, au pairs and camp counselors.
The resolution says the program brings 300,000 visitors to the U.S. annually, and it encourages the State Department to prioritize issuing these visas.
“Communities across Utah take advantage of the BridgeUSA programs with great success, and they deserve Congress’s full support,” said the Republican Moore, who represents Utah’s 1st District.
Impact on local communities in Utah and nationwide
The program strengthens tourism and diversity in the U.S. while also bolstering the workforce, according to a press release from Moore’s office.
Communities across Utah take advantage of the BridgeUSA programs w/ great success, & they deserve Congress’s full support. These work & study exchange programs have opened up opportunities in America for thousands of foreigners while also supporting our workforce & businesses.— Congressman Blake Moore (@RepBlakeMoore) June 7, 2023
“These work and study exchange programs have opened up amazing opportunities and experiences in America for hundreds of thousands of foreigners while also supplementing our workforce and supporting our businesses,” the Utah representative said.
“States like Utah that rely on a seasonal workforce to fuel local tourism need programs like these to ensure economic growth, and I am thrilled to once again lead this resolution with my colleague Rep. Kuster.”
Kuster, a Democrat, said that BridgeUSA, the largest public diplomacy program in the U.S., is also a huge part of New Hampshire’s tourism industry.
“The work-and study-based exchange visa program attracts foreign visitors, students, and workers to our state and strengthens cultural understanding,” she said.
Why the BridgeUSA program is important
The resolution says that 91% of summer work travel program participants said “cultural exchange” is the top reason why they participated. Nearly 76% of the participants said that they perceived the U.S. more positively after the program.
Meanwhile, 50% of employers said that the absence of this program would impact revenues negatively and 39% said they would have to reduce the hours of operation. It contributes more than half a billion to the U.S. economy.
“I want to thank Reps. Moore and Kuster for their strong support of Department of State international exchange programs,” said Mark Overmann, executive director of the Alliance for International Exchange, according to the press release.
“BridgeUSA exchanges are a win-win for the U.S.,” he said, adding that the many benefits of the program “is why BridgeUSA programs continue to have broad bipartisan support.”