US processors get foreign worker relief

Published on
December 30, 2015

The Gulf of Mexico and Eastern U.S. seafood industries got some long-awaited relief after Congress passed its omnibus spending bill that includes H-2B provisions. Seafood processors along the Gulf coast rely on seasonal foreign workers admitted to the U.S under the H-2B visa program to fill the most labor-intensive positions in the industry.

For over a year, more than 950 seafood processors, organizations and legislators and others have been fighting for the H-2B provisions, which will exempt returning H-2B guest workers from the annual cap of USD 66,000 (EUR 60,398). The temporary provisions also define “seasonal” as 10 months and allow staggered crossings from Mexico for seafood workers who need flexible times to enter the U.S.

“From harvesting crabs to shucking oysters, temporary and seasonal workers ensure the U.S. seafood industry continues to prosper well into the future I have consistently fought for an approach to the H-2B program that recognizes that one size does not fit all, protects the jobs and wages of workers, and provides the certainty small businesses need to survive,” said Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), vice chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Businesses along the Gulf coast also praised passage of the law.

“Crawfish processors have the earliest need and were severely affected last year. Hopefully, the government agencies will promptly alter their procedures to avoid a repeat of the 2014-2015 disaster,” said Frank Randol, a seafood processor and owner of Randol’s Restaurant in Lafayette, La. “These provisions restore the program to the way it used to work – at least through September.”

While the H-2B provisions are temporary, the Gulf Seafood Institute and other organizations will continue to work on permanent solutions, which are incorporated in stand-alone legislation recently introduced in the House and Senate. “Preservation of the H-2B visa program will be a top issue as our members ‘Walk on the Hill’ in Washington next month,” said Margaret Henderson, executive director of GSI.

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