- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an additional 30,000 H-2B visas, allowing more businesses to hire seasonal workers, the office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced. The extra allotment is twice the number of additional visas issued in the last two years and is for returning workers that held a seasonal visa in at least one of the past three fiscal years, the announcement stated.
- Collins joined 10 other senators to form a bipartisan group of lawmakers that sent DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen a letter in March, asking for additional visas that would allow small businesses to fill temporary jobs for the busy tourist season. "The continued tightening of the labor market warrants this increase," they wrote in the letter.
- The legislators asked Nielsen to raise the current 66,000 H-2B visa cap to 135,320, the level available in fiscal year 2007.
Demand for both H-2B visas and H-1B visas has far exceeded the number available in the past few years. The limitation on H-2B visas was so severe in 2017 that some seasonal businesses faced potential closure. And in 2018, employers scrambled to find workers for summer work as the visa program left many without the seasonal employees they needed. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reached the cap of 33,000 H-2B visa petitions for the second half of fiscal year 2019, the department announced in February. It follows that any increase in the federal allotment of H-2B visas comes as potentially good news, but the additional 30,000 issued by DHS may not solve employers' summer staffing problem.
Tightening visa allowances is a problem that is especially acute in the current talent market, which is marked by labor shortages across industries. Critics of employers' hiring foreign workers have implored organizations to bring on American workers, while business advocates claimed local markets have failed to produce the skilled workers they need.