H2-B Visa Cap Hits Resorts Hard

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SAM Magazine--October 8, 2007--Ski resorts across North America are scrambling to find workers after the H2-B visa cap was hit. The cap, which limits H2-B visas to a total of 33,000 workers was reached on October 1. While many resorts and other hospitality companies had expected that returning workers would be exempt from the cap, Congress failed to pass an extension to the exemption, which will expire on September 1.

It should be noted that while H2-B temporary worker visas are capped, J1 visas are still available. The J1 visa differs from HB-2 visas in that J1 visa holders are full time students who must return to classes in their own country once their stay is over. Hb-2 visa holders are non-students, both skilled and unskilled workers, who stay for longer periods of time.

With many human resources departments waiting until fall to fill seasonal jobs at resorts, and as more ski areas are relying upon imported labor to run lifts, teach ski school and make snow, the cap on H2-B visas is expected to turn into a nightmare for companies who have waited until the ski season is just around the corner to fill temporary positions.

"The shortage of seasonal employees will translate into poor service availability," Colorado immigration attorney Chris Pooley told the Vail Daily. "The employers who request H-2B visas bring a lot of workers." He adds, noting that, "reaching the quota will affect employers in the Vail valley greatly, because employers strongly rely on hiring foreign workers for seasonal jobs."

While it's unlikely that a long-term resolution for the shortage of seasonal resort workers is at hand, given the myriad issues facing many ski towns such as a lack of affordable housing, there is a beacon of hope for resorts who rely on H2-B visas for staffing this season. Several resorts are aggressively lobbying Congress to urge them to co-sponsor the legislation which will provide relief for the H2B visa program and allow resorts to obtain the help they need to supplement their domestic workforce. In addition, a bill called the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2007 was introduced earlier this year. In this Bill, returning H-2B workers were slated to be permanently exempt from the H-2B visa quota. However, this bill has not yet been passed. For more information on action your resort can take to address the issues surrounding H2-B visas, visit www.nsaa.org \