Visa ban has Alaska processors on edge

Time is running short for seafood companies who rely on the federal J-1 visa summer work travel program to supply many workers to process their Alaska harvest, with no word from the federal government on whether they can hire these students this year.

An aide for Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said there has been no indication when a decision would be forthcoming.

“We are proceeding under the assumption that the J-1 students will be denied re-entry into the program and hoping at the last minute that gets reversed so at some level these folks will be able to participate,” said Norm Van Vactor, of Leader Creek Fisheries, which processes wild Alaska salmon from Bristol Bay.

“We are advertising on the Internet. We have an ad running on Facebook, and have added part-time recruiters to our human resources staff, trying to come up with workers wherever we can. Our priority is to hire Alaskans, Americans, anybody we can get to work for us, (but) it has been very difficult to fill the ranks to get people to work for us for a month in Alaska,” he said.

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