US Homeland Security to add 45,000 H-2B visas this year
The U.S. seafood industry is on the verge of getting some good news as the Wall Street Journal has reported that the Department of Homeland Security plans to authorize an additional 45,000 H-2B visas.
H-2B visa allow non-agricultural businesses to fill seasonal jobs with immigrant labor. The program is vital for seafood processors, who claim they cannot find enough domestic workers to handle their needs.
The federal government had established a cap of 66,000 visas annually, with those permits split evenly between the first half and second half of the federal fiscal year, which starts on 1 October.
According to the Journal’s report, 20,000 of the additional visas would become available immediately upon the announcement, which the newspaper said was expected this week.
The rest of the visas would become available on 1 June.
As of the afternoon of Tuesday, 25 February, no news of the expansion had been posted on the Homeland Security website.
On Friday, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) said in a joint statement they took part in a call with Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf on the night of Thursday, 27 February.
The senators all represent states that have several seafood processors. They said the additional visas are vital to their states’ economies.
“We were pleased to hear that he has been working diligently on this issue, and we will continue pushing to ensure that additional visas are released quickly,” the senators said. “Without these additional visas, our states’ treasured crab and oyster industries – which are made up of many small, family-owned businesses and are crucial to the economies of the Eastern Shore and Northern Neck – will be forced to scale back operations, default on contracts, lay off full-time American workers or, in some cases, close operations completely. We will keep fighting to protect this important regional industry and to address this issue long-term.”