Boost For Seafood Industry: 35,000 Supplemental H-2B Visas To Be Released

The Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor plan to release 35,000 supplemental H-2B visas for the second half of Fiscal Year 2022, according to Congressman Andy Harris, R-Md. 1st.

“This is welcome news for the countless seasonal businesses in Maryland’s First Congressional District and across the nation that rely on the H-2B visa program to meet their labor needs,” Harris said. “While these supplemental visas will provide much-needed relief, it is unlikely to meet the employers’ full labor demands this year. Congress must continue to work to provide permanent solutions that fully address the chronic H-2B visa shortages. Understanding that the summer work season begins on April 1st, I urge the departments to get these visas to employers in need as soon as possible.”

According to Harris’ office, the release of the visas was made possible by the Harris-Pingree amendment to the FY ’22 DHS Appropriations Bill that became law earlier in March. The allocation consists of 23,500 visas available for returning workers who received an H-2B visa or were otherwise granted H-2B status during one of the last three fiscal years. 11,500 visas, which are exempt from the returning worker requirement, are reserved for nationals of Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

His office provided additional background:

Congressman Harris held an in person meeting with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on March 3rd.  In that meeting, he asked Secretary Walsh to move quickly alongside DHS in issuing supplemental visas to businesses in time for the busy summer season.

Congressman Harris is also an original co-sponsor of H.R. 3897, the H-2B Returning Worker Exemption Act.  This legislation is a permanent solution to the chronic H-2B visa issues that plague seasonal businesses such as the iconic crab houses of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  The bill would exempt workers who previously held an H-2B visa in one of the last three fiscal years from counting against the annual 66,000 statutory cap.  You can read his joint letter to the editor on this bill with Rep. Cuellar (D-TX) in the Wall Street Journal here.

The H-2B visa program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States.The employment must be for a limited period of time, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal, or intermittent need.Employers seeking to hire H-2B workers must take a series of steps to test the U.S. labor market.They must provide certification from the Department of Labor that proves there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work for which they seek a prospective foreign worker, and that employing the H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.