Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

June 2018

High Visa Denial Rates Could Affect Pools

The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) expressed concern leading up to Memorial Day that many commercial pools and spas might be delayed in opening for the season along the East Coast, and especially in the Mid-Atlantic region, due to an unprecedented number of visa denials. Affected pools are those that supplement their American lifeguard workforce by recruiting lifeguards internationally through the Summer Work and Travel Exchange Visitor Program. The swimming pool industry's recruitment of overseas lifeguards has grown over the years due to seasonal labor shortages caused by a variety of factors that have an impact on the availability and interest of Americans in seasonal employment.

"For years now there has been an increasing downward trend of high school and college students applying for summer lifeguard positions," said Jennifer Hatfield, APSP's director of government affairs. "Kids are choosing to focus on educational opportunities that limit their ability to apply for seasonal employment such as lifeguarding. In turn, pool management companies have had to increasingly supplement their lifeguard staff with the Summer Work and Travel Exchange Visitor Program."

The Exchange Visitor Program provides foreign students with an opportunity to live and work in the United States during their summer vacation from college or university to experience and be exposed to the people and way of life in the United States. The last step before traveling to the United States is to submit to a personal interview at a U.S. Embassy in their home country. During the interview, the consular officer decides whether or not to grant the visa to the applicant.

"This year, for reasons unknown at this time, there has been a surge in visa denials in certain countries, which now will result in many pools in the Mid-Atlantic (where most jurisdictions require lifeguards at all commercial and condo pools) and across the East Coast from opening on time," said APSP President and CEO Lawrence Caniglia, J.D., CAE. "Those who are expecting a Memorial Day holiday by the pool may be waiting a few weeks while companies redouble their effort to recruit and certify quality lifeguards. Anyone looking for a great summer job should consider applying with their local pool management company."

Since 2013, APSP's J-1 Coalition has brought together member companies whose livelihoods are dependent on managing community and public pools with reliable and competent workers throughout the season. The coalition has worked with members of the U.S. House and Senate on potential unintended consequences of regulatory changes to the Summer Work and Travel Exchange Visitor Program. As the coalition continues that work, they will also be seeking answers for the recent surge in visa denials.

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