A U.S. Representative from Maryland, Andy Harris, has requested that the current administration increase the availability of H-2B visas so that the crab houses in his Congressional district can get more workers.
Harris has asked for increases in the number of temporary work permits in the past in an effort to allow businesses to bring nonimmigrant workers to the United States for temporary, non-agricultural labor. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security stated in 2020 that it would not increase the current cap of 66,000 visas. Although, this announcement occurred during the previous administration.
The representative has seafood processing businesses and tourism businesses in his district and is concerned about the ability of these businesses to obtain enough employees. He claims that H-2B workers do the kind of jobs that American workers won’t do. Harris said that businesses in the seafood and tourism industry advertise to try and attract American workers, but with no success. He stated that the jobs are seasonal, and American workers want full-time jobs leaving the businesses with few other options.
The representative stated that applications for visas that would be good from April through September surpassed available visas by over 100,000. Harris wants Congress to try to solve this problem that keeps occurring every year.
Harris claims that “Without access to these visas, many American-owned seasonal businesses facing severe labor shortages will be forced to scale back or shutter their operations entirely, further driving up prices for goods and services, killing good-paying permanent American jobs, and harming local economies.”
Currently, the cap for H-2B visas is 66,000 a year, with half of these visas being for the first part of the fiscal year and the remainder for the second half of the fiscal year. However, recently, the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor announced that there would be an additional 20,000 H-2B visas that would be available for the 2022 fiscal year, which ends on September 30th. These visas would be for 13,500 returning workers, with the rest of the visas being for residents of Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary, stated that these additional visas would help improve the post-COVID economic recovery of the United States. He also hinted at possible reforms to the program. This could indicate that future periods may hold more opportunities for H-2B visas.
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