How Your Hotel Can Benefit From the Free Trade Agreement

By Michael Wildes Partner , Wildes & Weinberg | December 25, 2011

As the weather outside turns colder and flakes of snow begin to fall, hoteliers of winter resort destinations may be wondering how to meet their staffing needs.

Since it is not always possible to only hire U.S. citizens, your human resource personnel may need to look outside of our borders for qualified non-citizen workers.

One simple solution is the use of the helpful Trade NAFTA (TN Visa) which allows our brothers and sisters from Canada and Mexico to work legally in the United States with surprisingly little effort. This visa was designed to accommodate the mutually-supporting relationship it has with the citizens of those countries and facilitate the employment of its citizens in certain occupations.

The TN visa classification has proven very useful for all treaty participants, and it is a extraordinarily effective tool for the employment of qualified Canadian and Mexican workers by U.S. companies.

Creation of the TN Visa

The TN visa was first introduced in 1993 as a means to ease trade restrictions between Canada, the United States and Mexico. It has proven to be an extremely flexible tool and is useful to U.S employers as it expanded the list of working tasks for which Canadians and Mexicans can enter the U.S. and work. Citizens of these two neighboring countries, (not including landed immigrants or permanent residents), who are engaged in activities characterized as "professional", may be eligible for TN status. This category is similar to the "H-1B Specialty Occupation" nonimmigrant category, except that there is no annual numerical limit on how many individuals can come here to work, there is no limit on how long they can stay, and generally, the TN category covers a broader range of professional occupations. Recently, the period of time of the primary entry of TN visa holders was expanded to an initial period of three years and requests for extensions of their stay may now be granted in three year increments as well.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.