Members of Congress Press State Department to Reduce Visa Backlog

A group of Congressional members has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of State pressing the agency to bring the visa processing backlog back to the level existing before COVID-19. According to the U.S. Travel Association, it is important to eliminate the backlog in visa applications to promote increased travel to the United States.

The federal government has expanded an immigrant visa program that would allow businesses to hire more foreign national workers in an attempt to decrease labor shortages. However, because of the large backlog in processing visas due to the pandemic, these visas may not be processed any time soon.

The letter sent by several members of Congress states that the visa processing has been so slow because of procedures that were put in place during the pandemic and that these procedures are no longer necessary because there are sufficient vaccines and COVID-19 tests available. The letter also claims that the restrictions are making it difficult for businesses to reopen. International visitor spending suffered a huge drop in 2020, and now that travel is increasing again, travel businesses need H-2B and J1 visas to obtain the workers they need.

The USTA’s executive vice president of public affairs and policy stated that “Swift and efficient visa processing is critical to restoring the United States as a top destination for global travelers.” She said that having 60% of U.S. consulates and embassies closed or partially closed for visa processing means that it can take over a year to get an appointment in some places. Therefore, she believes that in order to get the US travel market back to pre-pandemic levels, it will be necessary to normalize visa operations and decrease the appointment backlog.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor have authorized an extra 20,000 H-2B visas. These visas are for temporary non-agricultural workers and will allow employers to hire non-citizens to perform certain jobs temporarily. These visas are part of a supplemental cap that the DHS and DOL are allowing for the first part of the fiscal year in the H-2B visa program. These visas will be for employers who intend to hire workers on or before March 31st. The current administration stated that the Department of Homeland security intends to make another 20,000 H-2B visas available before the start of the winter hiring season.

Employer Takeaways

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