Hospitality Industry Desperate for More Workers

Hospitality Industry Desperate for Workers

There is no doubt that the hospitality and leisure industry is facing a labor shortage. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are more than a million job openings, compared to only about 350,000 job openings in 2009.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association is urging Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and legislation that strengthen the H-2B and J-1 visa programs, which the hotel industry relies on. Leisure and hospitality jobs are disproportionately filled by  immigrants; approximately 31 percent of hotel workers are immigrants.

As we await Congressional action, let’s review the current visa options for those in the industry.

Hotel managers who are of Canadian or Mexican nationality should look to the TN. A TN visa would grant the applicant status to work in the US for an initial temporary period of three years. To qualify, the applicant must have either a 1) Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree in hotel/restaurant management, or 2) a Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate in hotel/restaurant management and three years’ experience in hotel/restaurant management.

An H-1B visa can be used for a broader range of hotel workers. The process for securing an H-1B is lengthier than that of TN, but it is also a great first step towards a green card. The H-1B category is for those who perform services in a specialty occupation whereas as the H-2B category is for lower skilled workers, such as gardeners and housekeepers.

For those who work for a large company with hotels all over the world, the L visa is likely the best fit. The L category is for those employed by a foreign employer who are seeking to transfer to a US affiliate. For example, say John Doe is the manager of the Ritz in Montreal and has been for the past two years. Mr. Doe gets a phone call one day from corporate saying that they want him to transfer to the Ritz in New York. In that scenario, Mr. Doe would be eligible for an L visa.

Finally, the J-1 visa is perfect for college or university students who are looking to work seasonally in the U.S. To be eligible, the applicant must be sponsored by a host organization and the two-year home residency rule requires those in J-1 status to return to their home country for at least a two-year period before they may secure certain subsequent nonimmigrant and immigrant benefits. A waiver for the two-year condition applies in limited circumstances.