Politics & Government

Kansas soccer business could lose millions over limits on federal visas

A Johnson County small business owner told a House committee on Wednesday that his business could face serious revenue losses and layoffs if Congress did not act quickly on federal visa reform.

Derek Shoare, a co-founder of Lenexa, Kansas-based Challenger Sports works to provide professional soccer coaches to over two dozen youth soccer camps and clubs across the country.

Because of a lack of U.S. coaches, the company relies heavily on temporary work visas to bring in foreign coaches for the camps. But strict caps on the number of visas distributed by the U.S. government limits the number of coaches the company can bring in, leaving large gaps in the company’s workforce.

None of the lawmakers present vowed any new legislation that would raise the cap, but the representatives who spoke on the H-2B visa, all said that they supported raising the cap.

Shoare said Challenger Sports needed 322 visas this year to to staff the soccer camps with coaches. His company got 147, forcing several camps to go uncoached and causing many soccer clients to drop the company all together. The company estimates a revenue loss of close to $6 million, a 17 percent drop in revenue from last year.

“The reputation of our company, after being a leader in the industry, is becoming extremely tarnished,” Shoare told the House Small Business Committee. “The clients don’t trust us. The workers we offer work don’t trust us anymore. This year we estimate that there will be 80,000 youngsters not being coached by us. Congress needs to act now.”

Shoare said his company brings in much of its workforce with H-2B visas, temporary documents which allow foreign workers to do seasonal work in the U.S.

The federal government grants 66,000 H-2B visas per year, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website shows. Of those visas, 33,000 are given to workers employed during summer months and the other half is given to those who work during the winter. This year, for 95,000 foreign workers looking for summer employment.

The capped visa system has existed since the mid-20th century, but this month, the Department of Homeland Security has temporarily raised the number of H-2B visas. Earlier this month, it offered 30,000 additional visas, but only to returning foreign workers.

Shoare urged lawmakers to raise the visa limit permanently. Challenger Sports has already had to lay off over 10 percent of its permanent staff, and Shoare said he anticipates more if his company cannot have a guarantee that visa limits will be raised.

Daniel Griswold, an expert and researcher on Trade and Immigration from George Mason University told the committee that small businesses often suffer the most from visa limits as the businesses are not well equipped to out perform larger corporations in their pursuit of the visas.

Rep. Steve Chabot, the top Republican on the committee, said that he was generally in favor of raising caps on the number of visas given, but he said many critics would simply advise hiring more Americans to fill employment gaps.

Shoare said that his company has done its best to recruit U.S. coaches, by placing advertisements and by sending emails to youth coaches in the national soccer association.

Many U.S. coaches simply aren’t interested, he said. Coaching youth soccer at the camps and clubs involves constant evening and weekend work, which Shoare said drives potential U.S. employees away.

Rep. Sharice Davids, the Kansas Democrat who invited Shoare to testify, said that many businesses in her district are suffering from an inability to bring in enough foreign workers. She strongly supported raising caps on the H-2B visas.

Rep. Pete Stauber, a Minnesota Republican on the committee, said he would also support raising the caps as many resorts in his district, which employ many foreign seasonal workers, are often limited by the number visas they can obtain.