Seasonal workers through the J-1 visa program listen to speakers at a J-1 orientation program at the Old Orchard Beach Salvation Army Wednesday afternoon. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

Seasonal workers through the J-1 visa program listen to speakers at a J-1 orientation program at the Old Orchard Beach Salvation Army Wednesday afternoon. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Town officials say there is a significant need for housing for student exchange workers, and are asking those interested in renting space to contact Town Hall.

Resort communities and vacation destinations along the Maine coast and beyond rely on students who come to the country on seasonal J-1 student work visas.

Town Manager Larry Mead said employers are reporting that students are showing up to work with no place to stay, and employers are trying to secure temporary housing, but housing for the entire season is needed.

Mead said with summer being the busiest time of year, it’s always difficult to secure housing for exchange students, but it seems to be more difficult this year.

Some who used to rent to students in the past are making other choices with their space, such as renting rooms with Airbnb. Also he said, there are less cabins available in town, such as the ones on Ocean Park Road that were torn down for an upcoming Dunkin Donuts, which were used to house student workers.

Mead said there are more than 500 J-1 students in the Old Orchard Beach and Saco area, and most of the students in these two communities are typically housed in Old Orchard Beach. These students come to the area to work at amusement parks, hotels, food stands and other seasonal businesses. 

Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kim Verreault said with unemployment rates down, it can be difficult to find local workers, and J-1 students are critical to the local tourism economy.

“Many of our businesses in the community couldn’t function without them, plain and simple,” she said.

Mead said anyone who is interested in renting space to a J-1 student should contact his office. He said those who live in a single-family home who rent a room to J-1 students will have to apply for a business license, like other renters in town, but they will get the license fee waived.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: