May 16, 2022
Washington, D.C. —Following a push led by U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) announced today that a temporary rule has been finalized that will provide an additional 35,000 H-2B visas to help small businesses fill seasonal job openings for the upcoming season. These visas will supplement 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 begin petitioning on Wednesday, May 18, for these visas, which will be set aside for U.S. employers seeking to employ additional workers now through Sept. 30, 2022. Senators Collins and King announced in March that DHS and DOL planned to issue these visas.
“Maine’s tourism industry is a significant 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 curtail their operations, hurting local communities and Maine workers employed by these businesses,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “Although these additional visas will help provide relief to many Maine small businesses during the busy summer season, there is still an overwhelming need given the current tight labor market and record low unemployment. We must improve the H-2B program to ensure Maine small businesses do not continue to suffer from a lack of workers.”
“HospitalityMaine is grateful for the efforts of the Maine delegation in helping to secure an additional 35,000 H-2B visa workers for the second half of this fiscal year, which includes our busy summer tourism season,” said Greg Dugal, Director of Government Affairs for HospitalityMaine. “The severe worker shortage that we have been experiencing in the hospitality industry will be somewhat mitigated by this much-needed announcement from the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security.”
The supplemental H-2B visa allocation consists of 23,500 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa or were otherwise granted H-2B status during one of the last three fiscal years. The remaining 11,500 visas, which are exempt from the returning worker requirement, 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 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas 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 allowable be released in 2022.
H-2B workers support American job growth and small businesses. Bipartisan research has found a direct correlation between increased numbers of H-2B workers and a rise in pay across the board for all employees. As required by law, employers must first make a concerted effort to hire American workers to fill open positions. H-2B visas fill needs for American small businesses when there are not enough able and willing American workers to fill the temporary, seasonal positions.