U.S. Senators Collins and King praise increase in temporary work visas for 2024
After pressure for more temporary non-agricultural work visas from lawmakers including U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, the federal government announced that nearly twice as many will be available for fiscal year 2024.
According to a news release from Collins, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor are expected to make nearly 65,000 additional H-2B visas available on top of the 66,000 already required each fiscal year.
“These additional H-2B visas are a welcome relief for small businesses throughout Maine that continue to face a shortage of employees,” said Collins and King in the release.
The visas, they said, are a “lifeline for our state’s economy,” by helping small businesses meet increased demand.
Not only have King and Collins called for more visas, but along with 20 other senators they sent a letter to DOL Acting Secretary Julie Su earlier this year, asking for an explanation for “extreme delays” in processing labor certificates for H-2B applications.
Collins also drafted language in the DHS appropriations bill passed in July asking DHS, with DOL, to create a report on the economic impact of H-2B visas in each state and nationally. The report was also to include the estimated number of visas needed to meet demand in fiscal year 2023 and any adverse economic impact from not meeting that demand.
Of the almost 65,000 additional visas, about a third will be for workers from Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras, the release said. The rest will be available to returning workers who were granted H-2B status in the last three fiscal years.
Employers are required by law to first make an effort to hire American workers, but H-2B visas allow small businesses to fill temporary, seasonal positions when “there aren’t enough able and willing American workers,” the release said.
Maine’s congressional delegation has also sponsored legislation to shorten the waiting period from 180 days to 30 days for asylum seekers to obtain a work permit, though Congress has yet to take action on those bills. The Maine Department of Labor says such a move would help “address – and mitigate – the financial and other resource-based issues the State and municipalities face while tackling our workforce shortage and fulfilling the dream of asylum seekers to stand on their own and contribute to our society.”