Federal government makes 22,000 more H-2B visas available this year

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday, 20 April announced that it would make another 22,000 H-2B visas available for businesses, such as seafood processors, that rely on seasonal laborers.

In a statement, the federal agency said feedback from businesses that rely on the visa program to staff summer operations led to the expansion. DHS said many of those businesses were unable to hire American workers to fill critical positions.

DHS said the additional visas will only be available to companies that can attest their businesses will be irreparably harmed if they are unable to secure workers. Homeland Security officials also will let companies bring on visa-holders already in the country without needing to file a new petition.

“The H-2B program is designed to help U.S. employers fill temporary seasonal jobs, while safeguarding the livelihoods of American workers,” Homeland Security secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said. “This supplemental increase also demonstrates DHS’s commitment to expanding lawful pathways for opportunity in the United States to individuals from the Northern Triangle.”

The Northern Triangle is made up by the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Residents from those countries will receive 6,000 of the visas.

Currently, the U.S. government caps the number of available visas at 66,000 per fiscal year. There are 33,000 for the first half, which runs October to March, and 33,000 for the second half. Any unused visas from the first half can also be allocated in the second half of the year.

Usually, though, demand is high enough for applications to outpace available visas.

Critics of the visa program say it takes job opportunities away from American workers. However, seafood processors claim the visas are essential because they cannot find workers willing to work in some remote locations, such as Alaska’s Aleutian Islands or Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore.

“We are pleased that @DHSgov has heeded our call to increase the number of available H-2B visas, which is critical to keeping our Maryland seafood processors open for business,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan tweeted Tuesday in response to the DHS announcement. 

Photo courtesy of Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock


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