Amid rising demand for temporary workers ahead of the summer season, the Biden administration has announced that an extra 35,000 US seasonal work visas will be made available. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, said: ‘the decision will help American businesses in need of workers as the summer approach’.
The H2B visa program as its called will allow expansion, the expansion will allow US companies to hire foreign workers for seasonal non-agricultural jobs including cleaners, waiters, gardeners and more. Industry sectors such as landscaping, tourism and hospitality rely heavily on overseas seasonal workers, especially during busy summer months. In an official statement, Mayorkas said: “This has been an informed decision based on current demand in the labor market, and will help to support American businesses.”
H2B visa cap
In its current form, the number of H2B visas made available under the program is capped at 33,000 for six months of each fiscal year. At the beginning of March, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the cap for the period running from April to September had already been reached.
In April 2021, the DHS said it would make an extra 22,000 US seasonal worker visas available after US employers expressed a need for more workers. Meanwhile, in December 2021 and for the first time ever for the winter season, an additional 20,000 seasonal worker visas were made available. It’s understood that of the 35,000 extra US visas made available for the summer, 23,500 will be reserved for retuning workers from the last three years. Meanwhile, 11,500 will be made available to foreign nationals from El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras.
While more seasonal worker visas will be welcomed by US employers looking to fill so-called low wage jobs, some labor groups – who are pushing to restrict US immigration numbers – argue that the H2B visa program prevents Americans getting opportunities and causes reduced wages.
In order for an employer to hire workers under the H2B visa scheme, they must provide evidence to the US Labor Department that they have been unable to find a suitable US worker for a vacancy.
Less of an appetite for low-level jobs
However, despite many businesses bouncing back from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have struggled to secure the services of US workers, claiming that Americans have ‘no appetite for so-called low-level jobs’.
While the seasonal worker scheme will see an increase in US visa availability, Alejandro Mayorkas conceded that many foreign workers filling seasonal vacancies ‘could face exploitation by employers’. Those operating landscaping firms, amusement parks, restaurants and crab trapping companies have all described how they continue to struggle to hire American workers to fill job vacancies.
A number of industries have been hit by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has cut off the flow of migrant workers into the US over the last two years, especially amid a number of US visa and immigration restrictions implemented by former US President, Donald Trump. However, he said that the DHS would crackdown on such violations. Mayorkas said: “We recognize the importance of strong worker protections. We will apply greater scrutiny to those employers who have a record of violating obligations to their workers and the H2B program.”
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