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Tourism Towns in Utah Could Face More Financial Strain With Work Visa Suspension

Photo of a ski lift on a snowy mountain
Wikimedia Commons
Park city businesses rely heavily on foreign workers, and this year they could face financial strain due to the restriction on work visas.

Ski resorts in Utah that depend on seasonal foreign workers might have problems finding the labor they need this winter season, due to the recent suspension of certain work visas.

Earlier this week the Trump administration suspended J-1 work visas, which allow foreign college students to work in the U.S. 

In Park City, foreign workers can make up anywhere between 25-50% of the labor force during the winter, according to Pete Stoughton with the Christian Center of Park City. Stoughton helps them find housing when they arrive. 

He said the 1,800-3,000 foreign workers in Park City can be paid anywhere from 12-25% less than domestic workers.

Lynn Ware Peek, with Park City Municipal Corporation, said after the financial burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of foreign workers could cause more strain for businesses.

“It's going to be a stretch for anyone who's operating a business,” Ware Peek said. “You’ll have to pay more to attract employees because a certain sector of how you'd normally find your employees is taken away.”

She said businesses in every hospitality sector are normally understaffed during the winter season and the restriction could be “hugely detrimental” to the local businesses because it will be difficult for them to get enough staffing.

Pete Stoughton said restricting J-1 visas could also have an effect on the housing industry in Park City. 

“As far as economically, the rental market should be not as competitive as it previously was,” Stoughton said.

More resorts have reopened their doors after closing early for the 2019-2020 season. The general manager at SnowBasin Resort said only a small portion of their workers are foreign, and they generally hire locals. And a spokesperson from Sundance Mountain Resort also said the suspension of work visas will not have a huge impact on them.

Jessica Lowell is KUER’s news intern. Follow her on Twitter @Jess_Lowell

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