Skip to Content

Travel restrictions keep J-1 Visa students in the Dells without jobs

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00

WISCONSIN DELLS (WKOW) -- As countries around the world close their borders to prevent further spread of COVID-19, hundreds of seasonal workers in Wisconsin Dells find themselves stuck.

After working at the Great Wolf Lodge for three months, Valeria Farfan Rivera found herself in that position on Monday.

"I was just about to take my flight and I get an email that it's canceled," she said. "I didn't know what to do."

The president of Peru, her home country halted all international flights into the nation. Farfan Rivera had to return to the Dells and found dozens of others in a similar predicament.

"We all want to see our families again," she said.

Farfan Rivera is one of hundreds of students who come to the Dells for seasonal work on J-1 Visas. The visa allows students to work for a designated period of time but with the winter season over, many of those visas are expiring.

Fellow Peruvian Diego Arce said his work window expired Sunday.

"I'm not allowed to work, even if I wanted to," he said.

Dozens of other students arrived in the past few weeks to start the spring season, but most of them are out of work too. Most resorts and restaurants have closed or cut back.

Some students said they're getting paid their minimum work hours but others said they've been told they won't get paid until the resorts reopen.

"Most of us cannot pay that weekly rent until we start working again or get money from elsewhere," Arce said.

To accommodate the hundreds of international students going without pay, residence halls are allowing them to stay as long as they need.

Tom Holtz, the owner of Hiawatha residence hall said the community has stepped up to help places like his take care of them.

"The rent is being picked up by the Village and also the businesses around here," he said.

He said the community is also providing food and essentials to keep the students healthy as they wait to learn what's next.

Farfan Rivera said it's been a big help in making them feel at home, but after three months away from Peru, she's ready to return to her country.

"Our families in Peru are really worried about us," she said.

At this point, it's still uncertain when these students may return home. They said their travel ban is supposed to last for the next two weeks, but it could go longer depending on how Peru copes with the virus.

Author Profile Photo

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

Skip to content