With Visas Tight, U.S. Resorts Struggle To Find Seasonal Help

Innkeepers, restaurateurs and landscapers around the U.S. say they are struggling to find seasonal help and turning down business in some cases because the government tightened up on visas for temporary foreign workers.

"There's going to be a lot of businesses that just can't function on a full-time basis, and some might not even open at all," said Mac Hay, who co-owns Mac's Seafood on Cape Cod and has organized seasonal businesses to lobby Congress.

At issue are H-2B temporary visas, which are issued for workers holding down seasonal, nonagricultural jobs.

The U.S. caps the number at 66,000 per fiscal year. Some workers return year after year, and Congress has let them do so in the past without being counted toward the limit. No such exception was passed for 2017 at the end of last year, after the presidential election.

Lawmakers on Monday unveiled a government spending bill that would allow the homeland security secretary to increase the number of H-2B visas this fiscal year to almost 130,000.

But there is concern that even if the measure passes, it will take weeks for visas to be processed, meaning many workers probably won't arrive in time for Memorial Day and maybe not until after the Fourth of July.

Many resorts rely heavily on foreigners on H-2B visas to work as housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers and the like, saying they cannot find enough Americans willing to take such jobs. President Donald Trump himself has hired seasonal workers at his Mar-a-Lago resort in this way.

Each visa typically costs at least $1,000 in government fees, travel and other expenses, paid by employers.

At the Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, Maine, owner Sarah Mace Diment said she cut back on the number of rooms available during New England's spring vacation week in April because she is short eight housekeepers, who are paid $10 to...

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