The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) announces that its J-1 Coalition has been successful in achieving clarifications from the U.S. State Department enabling pool management companies who rely on the J-1 Summer Work Travel Program for seasonal lifeguards to receive foreign worker visas for its workers.

In January the State Department issued a letter stating that pool management companies who placed lifeguards at their customer’s facilities were “staffing agencies” and therefore subject to significant restrictions in their use of J-1 foreign worker visas for the coming season, jeopardizing staffing for commercial pools across the nation. Many companies have multi-year contracts in place and determined there was not time to adjust. As a result, APSP formed the J-1 Coalition.

“Overall, the March 27 clarification letter of the J-1 Summer Work Travel Program guidelines is positive for the industry,” said Jennnifer Hatfield, APSP director of government relations. “The letter clearly removes the "staffing agency" label from a pool management company that provides full pool services including lifeguards.”

Hatfield explained that pool management companies will still need to demonstrate to sponsors the manner in which lifeguards are supervised and meet the work alongside requirements, keeping in mind that "work alongside" and "interact regularly with" are two separate requirements. She acknowledged though that even with the new interpretation and appropriate program management plans, some sponsors may be more willing than others to place program participants with pool management companies as lifeguards at single lifeguard facilities.

“The J-1 Coalition will continue to help its members navigate this issue so that summer service is uninterrupted,” said Bill Weber, APSP president and CEO. “This was a major issue for our members that could have had serious implications for all pool management companies across the country. The outcome is another example of APSP’s success in creating industry coalitions to serve segments of the pool, spa or hot tub industry overcoming a regulatory challenge.”