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 \


former ski industry insider

When the H-2 visa cap was announced last spring summer resort areas like the southern beaches of Maine screamed that the sky is falling. Ski resorts have it better in that their season is summer vacation time for kids in SA. Since the J1 visas are not affected it's not as big of a problem.


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Grooming Manager

Everybody has some good points here, and it's not just the ski industry it's affecting. I remember when I started in this industry 25 years ago, sure the wage was small, but you could 'get by' and have a decent place to live and eat. You were not going to 'get rich' but you could survive.
Unfortunately the increase in wages (and not just ski resorts) has not kept up with the cost of living. When I hire people now I come right and tell them, 'why do you want this job' that is not going to pay much, you better like what you are doing ,I make it very clear to them. Most do it because they love what they do and the lifestyle. In the end this issue of living wages, lack of employees, and having to depend upon a foreign work force is not a good policy for America as a whole. This issue needs to be addressed on a National level, and directly relates with Americas Immigration Policy or 'lack of one'! \


Si...Why is it so easy for a citizen of another country to work here when it is just about impossible for a US citizen to work in another country?

And then the isssue of pay. Has the rate of compensation for the front line employee in the industry increased at the same rate that it has for the executives? I don't think so.

I just listened to a session of farmers complaining about the same situation. Just because a lie is repeated over and over again doesn't make it true. One farmer guy was trying to claim migrant workers didn't start working in the ag industry until the 80"s. When called on it, he changed the subject.

Raise pay as much as lift tickets...

...and resorts will get good, dependable and trainable employee. Resorts have absolutely no excuse for crying over that visa situation.

Former Skier

I think Tom Clancy said it all...... pay a living wage and Americans will fill the jobs.

Professional Ski Instructor

The only solution to this is to pay more money so that Americans can fill the jobs.