Lack of approved foreign work visas can negatively affect tourism industry

WALL, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Hiring foreign workers is necessary for many businesses throughout the state as they prepare for the summer tourism season.
However, the process can be complicated and if visas aren't approved in time, a business could end up short staffed.

Customers walk through the Wall Drug Store.

At the Wall Drug Store, about 70 of the 200 summer employees work on a foreign visa. Some are college students with a J-1 visa which factors in their GPA when deciding whether or not to grant worker status. Others have an H2B visa that is provided through the business.

The process for those visas starts months in advance. The HR director at the Wall Drug Store, Anne Jo Spotted Bear says they put in 15 applications for H2B visas months ago and with the summer nearly here, only five have been approved so far.

"It is a long process and so if we started in October we've been working on this for seven months and it's a bit stressful because you don't know if you're going to get them or not so it's really a gamble on whether you'll get them or not and how your staff is going to work out for you.>," she says.

She expects to hear about the last 10 applications this week but says there are lots of other businesses throughout the state that have trouble hiring seasonal employees.
Spotted Bear believes some of the reasons are the low unemployment rate and a lack of students looking for summer jobs.