Do foreign students take hospitality jobs away from Americans?

About 4,000 foreign students under the J1 visa program are on the Grand Strand this summer, working in hospitality jobs and learning about life in America.

Occasionally, WPDE NewsChannel 15 hears from viewers who ask: Why don't hospitality businesses hire American students instead of foreigners?

The employers say there are good reasons that have to do with the demand for workers and the length of the summer season.

At an orientation meeting for international students Tuesday, Myrtle Beach police and representatives from other agencies helped foreign students learn about things like how to stay safe while they're in the U.S.

Some of them will go to work for Lack's Beach Service, which hires more than 100 lifeguards each summer.

"To be able to get 110 Americans who work beginning now all the way to September would be almost impossible," said Meghan Kelly, recruiting and training manager for Lack's.

Kelly says about half of Lack's lifeguards are American, but the other half are J1 foreign students, who can stay in America for up to four months.

She says that better fits the company's season for lifeguards.

"Americans can typically start in May but then they have to go back to school by September, whereas with the J1 visa (students), they come in June and can stay maybe until October, so our season does run that long and it helps us to fill our positions."

Officials from the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association say the foreign students are a supplement to the American workforce and not a replacement.

They say unemployed Americans usually look for full-time jobs, not seasonal work.

It probably also helps that, as this website that promotes the J1 program points out, employers don't have to pay payroll taxes on foreign students.

For their part, the students love working in America.

"It's really nice place, I love the summer here and the weather is OK and the people. It's a good place to enjoy here," said Adam Loza, a Lack's lifeguard from Poland.

Kelly says foreign students are usually hard workers and good swimmers, making them excellent lifeguards.