Monday, November 23, 2009

H-2B Visa Usage Dwindles at Ski Resorts; Other Avenues Possible

Premier ski resorts are decreasing their usage of the H-2B visa to hire international ski instructors. For instance, the Aspen Ski Company decided that it would no longer petition for any H-2B visas for its employees.

Two winters ago, SkiCo applied for about 400 H-2B visas and hired 120 ski instructors using the program. Last winter, it applied for 200 H-2B visas and used 109 for ski instructors.

This change is in large part due to increased scrutiny by the Department of Labor over employer obligations, especially with respect to the improper recoupment of visa costs and other business expenses by employers. The article cites the fact that ski instructors are now seeking to pursue the O-1 visa as an alternative to the H-2B. The standard for the O-1 visa - Extraordinary Ability - is set higher than the H-2B visa, under which seasonal workers could be hired even with minimal skills or training. As suggested by the article, a successful O-1 visa petition requires a thorough elaboration on all of the applicant's abilities and achievements.

“It’s all about competing and bragging about it, I guess,” she said.

Another avenue that coaches and instructors might pursue is the H-1B visa. The article ignores this visa as a possibility. In prior years, there was such a huge demand for H-1B visas that the approximately 65,000 visas made available annually under this category would expire within a day or two of their availability. However, the H-1B quota for Fiscal Year 2010 has not been reached, and so the H-1B visa remains a real possibility for coaches and instructors.

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