Collins, King Again Call on Administration to Approve Additional Seasonal H-2B Visas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King have signed onto a bipartisan letter led by Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly urging him to use the authority provided by Congress to lift the cap on seasonal H-2B visas that employers rely on to fill summer jobs. In the letter, the senators expressed their concern about reports that visas may not be approved in time for peak tourist season. 

 

“Businesses in our states, particularly in our tourism industries, rely on the H-2B visa program to hire extra workers in the summer tourism season, when demand is greatest,” the senators wrote. “The delay in approving additional visas during much of the peak season could hurt local employers’ ability to keep their businesses going and meet demand. We respectfully urge you to use the authority provided by Congress to increase the number of H-2B visas available to seasonal workers, and to work with the Department of Labor to ensure that visas are available as soon as possible.”

 

Last week, DHS confirmed it would increase the number of seasonal H-2B visas, but said that visas will not be available until late July, hurting many businesses who rely on seasonal workers. Additionally, reports indicate that DHS may only provide a limited number of visas under the authority. The letter asks that Secretary Kelly increase the number available consistent with the authority provided to him by Congress.

 

The bipartisan letter was also signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and John Thune (R-S.D.).

 

The text of the letter to Secretary Kelly can be found below and in pdf form HERE.

 

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June 26, 2017

 

The Honorable John F. Kelly

Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20528

 

Dear Secretary Kelly:

 

We write to express our concerns regarding recent media reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to make available only a limited number of additional H-2B Nonimmigrant Temporary Worker visas above the existing cap in Fiscal Year 2017.

 

As you know, the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2017 signed into law in early May provided the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, with the authority to approve nearly double the existing cap of 66,000 H-2B visas. Many of us wrote to you following passage of that bill to urge you to lift the cap. We applaud the announcement last week by DHS that you have decided to lift the cap on visas available to seasonal workers this summer. This important step will help businesses hire the workers they need during the summer. 

 

However, we are concerned by reports that the number of additional H-2B visas approved will be far lower than the number authorized by Congress, and may be as low as 18,500. We are also concerned that the timeline for approving H-2B applications would hinder businesses’ ability to hire the employees they need and leave them without help until late in the summer season. According to DHS, these visas likely won’t be approved until late July at the earliest—meaning that applications are not likely to be through the multi-agency approval process until mid-August. 

 

Businesses in our states, particularly in our tourism industries, rely on the H-2B visa program to hire extra workers in the summer tourism season, when demand is greatest. The delay in approving additional visas during much of the peak season could hurt local employers’ ability to keep their businesses going and meet demand. We respectfully urge you to use the authority provided by Congress to increase the number of H-2B visas available to seasonal workers, and to work with the Department of Labor to ensure that visas are available as soon as possible.

 

Thank you for your attention to this urgent issue. We ask that you act as soon as possible to address these concerns. 

 

Sincerely yours,