Visa Shortages Cause Problems for Tourist Businesses in the U.S.

Visa shortages this summer are forcing tourist businesses around the U.S. to scramble for summer workers. Here’s an article in the Boston Globe that focuses on the lack of workers on Cape Cod and another story in the New York Times.  Small businesses around the U.S are suffering and students who want to work here can’t get the visas they want and need. It’s a growing problem with no end in sight and one that makes for interesting conversations after screenings (more about that below).

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Even with the news stories, there are still many Americans who don’t know much about the J1 visas that allow international students to work in the U.S. for the summer. At a recent screening in West Hartford, CT, the post screening Q & A with director Melody Gilbert was more about the experiences those students have, especially when they come to the U.S. for the first time. Their favorite line from the film was “Americans know how to be mean in a polite way,” which got a big laugh because it’s very true.

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Screening in Connecticut at West Hartford Public Library

It was a different story in Provincetown, Mass., where most of the audience at the Water’s Edge Cinema (except for a couple visiting from New Zealand), was keenly aware of the 500+ J1 visa student workers that help keep “Ptown” running every summer.  The conversation during the Q and A there ranged from “how can we help these students afford their housing” to “what would we do without them.” There was also a discussion about why so many students like coming to Provincetown to work, many of them describing it as a “magical” place to live and work. But businesses in Ptown are also suffering because not enough visas were issued to their seasonal workers, some of whom have been coming to Ptown for years, many of them from AUBG, where Melody used to be a professor in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria (this is where she got the idea for the documentary). Melody had a great time connecting with some of her former students who are still working there in the coffee shops, T-shirt stores and restaurants.

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Provincetown Screening with  AUBG students

Even though we are now done with film festival screenings, we are getting lots of interest in screenings from libraries, organizations, small theaters and educational institutions. If you are interested in having a screening of The Summer Help, please contact Melody at

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Yours in Docs,

Melody Gilbert (trailers for all her documentaries here) (all about Melody)


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