35,000 additional H-2B visas to be issued…

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washington d.c. -Following a push led by U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Labor (DOL) today announced that a temporary rule has been finalized that will provide 35,000 additional H-2B visas to help small businesses fill seasonal vacancies for the upcoming season. These visas will complement the previous supply of 33,000 H-2B visas for the second half of the current fiscal year, all of which have been claimed.

Maine businesses can start applying for these visas Wednesday, May 18which will be reserved for U.S. employers seeking to employ additional workers through September 30, 2022. Senators Collins and King announced in March that DHS and DOL plan to issue these visas.

“Maine’s tourism industry is an important part of our state’s economy, supporting the jobs of tens of thousands of Mainers. In order to meet the demand of the millions of visitors to our state each year, Maine businesses need H-2B workers to supplement their Maine workforce. Without their help, many of these hotels and restaurants would be unable to open or would have to reduce operations, harming local communities and the Maine workers employed by these businesses,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “While these additional visas will help relieve many small businesses in Maine during the busy summer season, there is still an overwhelming need given the current tight job market and record unemployment. We need to improve the H-2B program to ensure Maine’s small businesses don’t continue to suffer from a shortage of workers.

“HospitalityMaine is grateful for the efforts of the Maine delegation to help secure an additional 35,000 H-2B visa workers for the second half of this fiscal year, which includes our busy summer tourist season,” said Greg Dugal, director of government affairs for HospitalityMaine. “The severe labor shortage we are experiencing in the hospitality industry will be alleviated somewhat by this much-needed announcement from the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security.”

The supplemental H-2B visa allocation includes 23,500 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa or achieved H-2B status in any of the last three fiscal years. The remaining 11,500 visas, which are exempt from the obligation to return workers, are reserved for nationals of Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. In January 2022, the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor announced the availability of 20,000 additional temporary H-2B visas for non-farm workers for the first half of fiscal year 2022.

In February, Senator King co-led a bipartisan letter that was signed by 35 senators, including Senator Collins, urging the Biden administration to release the maximum number of H-2B visas allowed to be issued in 2022.

H-2B workers support job growth and small American businesses. Bipartisan research has found a direct correlation between an increased number of H-2B workers and increased wages at all levels for all employees. As required by law, employers must first make a concerted effort to hire American workers to fill vacancies. H-2B visas meet the needs of small American businesses when there are not enough capable and willing American workers to fill the temporary and seasonal positions.

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