J1 Visa & job scheme collapses in disarray

Originally published in Volume IV, Issue 12 on 1st May 1998 by Alan Torney. Hundreds of students who paid £719 each for J1 Visas with “guaranteed jobs and accommodation” in US golf and country clubs have been told this week that both their jobs and accommodation have fallen through. The students, who booked their visas through the Cork-based company SAYIT, paid an extra £100 to be placed in Golf and Country Clubs where they were to receive a minimum of $9.50 per hour, or $6.50 per hour plus free accommodation. The programme also offered participants a bonus of up to $800” if they stayed for the full summer. Now, with participants heading off as soon as June 1st, they have been told that their “jobs” do not exist. Instead they have been offered a refund of the extra £100 and will be given access to a list of potential employers, some of whom offer wages of just £2.35 - although this may be supplemented with tips. However even with these employers, students will not be guaranteed employment. SAYIT claim they had secured the jobs through a contractor in the US, but when they forwarded the CVs of Irish students to the Clubs, they found employers were unwilling to accept some applicants, and were “picking and choosing” from groups of friends that had been told by SAYIT they would be working together. Earlier this year, SAYIT advertised that they had “over 700 fantastic jobs in some of America’s most exclusive Golf & Country Clubs.” The jobs included those if waiter/waitress, caddie, bartender, doorman, chambermaid, and receptionist. In late January, the company closed applications for the scheme, entitled “Option B”. Speaking this week to the University Observer, the company’s Managing Director, Michael Doorley, blamed the American contractors who he claimed “decided about four weeks ago to move the goal posts and change the parameters for previous experience required from individuals.” He continued, “we were extremely angry. Our first concern was that students had to get J1s.” Since being granted a J1 requires students to have formal job offers, Mr. Doorley himself travelled to the East Coast of America to source jobs. He told us that he succeeded in securing offers for up to 550 jobs in Cape Cod, Boston, Myrtle Beach and Ocean City. Suitable accommodation for several hundred was found on three of these locations. Mr. Doorley admitted, “we’re not giving out super-dooper jobs here, just regular student jobs.” Asked about the “Guaranteed jobs” claim in SAYIT literature, Mr. Doorley stressed, “at the interview stage we told students that the final decision was with the Club managers in the States.” However students involved in the fiasco have been highly critical of SAYIT’s communication or lack thereof. One student complained, “if they knew, that long ago, that the jobs had fallen through, then why weren’t we told until this week?” Students who participated in other SAYIT schemes for this summer also condemned the lack of communication: “We got a letter at the start, but then heard nothing until this week.” “The whole operation just seems incredibly unprofessional,” said Trinity College Employment Officer, Alan Mac Simoin. “People seem to have been told their jobs and flights were all confirmed and then suddenly they were unconfirmed.” SAYIT (Student and Youth International Travel) was founded in February 1997 and is a division of the Shannon Travel Group, which has operated in Cork for 25 years. The collapse of this particular programme is being seen as a major setback for the company, which is the first to directly USIT in the student travel market.