economy

Biden administration to make 20,000 more visas available for temporary workers

Biden administration to make 20,000 more visas available for temporary workers

The Biden administration will make an additional 20,000 H-2B seasonal guest-worker visas available to employers ahead of the winter hiring season, the Department of Homeland Security said. The visas are being made available in addition to 33,000 visas already set aside for seasonal employers, such as landscapers, hotels and ski resorts, for the winter hiring season. They will be available to employers looking to bring on temporary workers on or before March 31. The move marks the first time the department is offering the additional visas for the winter season, and leaves open the possibility that the administration could make an additional batch available for the summer, which is typically busier. “At a time of record job growth, additional H-2B visas will help to fuel our nation’s historic economic recovery, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. Of the 20,000 additional visas, 6,500 will be set aside for applicants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti—all countries that have sent large numbers of migrants to the U.S. border in recent months. The remainder will be set aside for returning workers from any country. The seasonal-worker program, known as the H-2B visa program, enables U.S. employers to hire as many as 66,000 temporary foreign workers a year, with the allotments split evenly between the winter and summer seasons. Since 2017, Congress has permitted the department each year to raise that cap by as many as 64,000 additional visas, though neither the Trump nor Biden administrations have approached that limit despite demand. In order for employers to hire a foreign worker on an H-2B visa, they must first attempt to recruit an American worker and receive certification from the Labor Department that there are none available to do the job. The program comes with requirements on how much employers must pay the workers, so they aren’t paid less than American counterparts, and employers must continue recruiting Americans even after foreign laborers are hired. Farmworkers fall under a separate H-2A visa program, which has no limit set by Congress. The Biden administration has come under intense pressure from employers and business groups to make the additional visas available sooner to help alleviate labor shortages, which are being felt most acutely in low-wage industries that rely on immigrant labor. “There is a dire shortage of seasonal labor in the U.S. and many employers must turn to the H-2B program to meet their workforce needs and not only sustain their businesses, but also provide much needed support to their American workers, a group of businesses wrote in a letter to Mr. Mayorkas and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on Oct. 14. Proponents of the temporary work visas also argue they provide the workers—primarily from Mexico—a pathway to work lawfully in the U.S., reducing the incentive to migrate illegally. The move is at odds with the desire of labor unions, a key Democratic Party constituency, who dislike the use of foreign labor and say the program as it is currently designed doesn’t give workers recourse to leave abusive or exploitative employers. The Department of Homeland Security said it plans to release a proposed set of policies in coming months to update the seasonal-worker program that would address some of these concerns. The program could face particular challenges this year, as the countries that most often send H-2B workers are covered by President Biden’s ban on unvaccinated travelers, and many of those workers are either unvaccinated or received vaccines not approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Employers have asked the administration to exempt foreign workers from the requirement, but the administration hasn’t yet acted. This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text Download.

economy 2021-12-21 Livemint