The H-2B non-agricultural temporary work visa has long been inadequate to meet seasonal labor needs. With a cap of only 33,000 visas for each half of the fiscal year, U.S. businesses have little hope of getting the labor needed for seasonal surges.
In the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2018, passed on March 23, 2018, Congress included a fix that would allow about 63,000 additional H-2B visas for seasonal jobs that start before FY2018 ends on September 30th.
In January, employers nationwide filed H-2B petitions for more than 80,000 summer/fall seasonal positions, far exceeding the 33,000 cap. With with the authority granted in the Appropriations bill, which was nearly identical Congress’s FY2017 H-2B visa shortage solution, the government should be able to act immediately on H-2B visa petitions that were rejected because of the cap. But that has not happened, and summer is rapidly approaching.
On April 11, 2018, over 1300 businesses and trade associations nationwide that depend on an influx of seasonal workers signed a letter by the H-2B Workforce Coalition to the Secretaries of the Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security urging them act immediately to resume processing H-2B visa petitions up to the full number allowed under the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2018.
Twenty-two Maine businesses and trade associations, ranging from the hospitality sector, to landscaping and moving companies signed on to the letter. Last year the government only released 15,000 additional visas, and did not begin processing them until July, in a classic “too little, too late” response.
Seasonal workers strengthen Maine’s economy, as this letter to the editor by a Maine innkeeper explains. The federal government must do better this year.