May 27, 2018 (BE2C2) — The Department of Homeland Security will provide 15,000 additional H-2B visas to at-risk businesses to bring in low-skilled foreign labor this summer.
The move lifts the number of these H2-B visas for summer work from the cap of 66,000 under statute to 81,000, the Wall Street Journal reported. It is made possible by Congress giving Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen the authority to issue up to 69,000 more visas this summer, if necessary, after negotiations in the spring with 81,000 people having applied for the summer H2-B visas in January.
In a statement to the Hill, Nielsen said the additional visas were meant to counter restrictions on the program that had caused “a situation where the program unintentionally harms American businesses.”
Nielsen made the move after consulting with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.
The decision also follows a Baltimore Sun report that Maryland lost nearly half of its crab industry workers due to new Trump administration restrictions on visas. In particular, it awarded the visas through a lottery process this year instead of the first-come, first serve basis it used in the past.
The H2-B visas allow businesses to bring in foreign workers when they are able to show that there are not enough U.S. workers willing to do the temporary work.
U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, who told the Baltimore Sun in May that the need for more visas was imminent, called the 15,000 “a start,” but said they still won’t be able to meet the full demand for labor this year.