WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kristjen Nielsen and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Alexander Acosta requesting that DHS audit the number of unused visas from the first half of fiscal year 2018. The letter also asks DOL to distribute visas based on time of application rather than randomly processing.
“H-2B visas, which certify foreign workers to be temporarily employed in the United States, are heavily relied upon by Maine’s many tourism and hospitality businesses,” the Maine Congressional Delegation wrote in their letter. “In many cases, the continued employment of their full-time, year-round workers also depends on the availability of temporary workers during peak seasons…We urge the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct an immediate audit of the number of unused visas from the first half of fiscal year (FY) 2018 – and if you find that the full 33,000 visas were not actually issued during the first half of FY 2018, to make sure that those visas are made available as soon as possible for the second half of the fiscal year… we [also] urge DOL to ensure that priority for the allocation of visas be based on the time of application.”
Under current law, the USCIS distributes 66,000 H-2B visas annually to seasonal businesses – 33,000 for each half of the fiscal year. Last year, that cap was reached on March 13th, with many small businesses in Maine still in need of seasonal employees to support their operations as the summer months approached. Following pressure from the Maine Congressional Delegation, the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor did agree to issue up to 15,000 additional H-2B visas in July 2017.
The complete text of the letter can be read HERE and is below: