Administration announces additional 30,000 seasonal worker visas
Posted May 6, 2019 8:34 p.m. EDT
CNN — The Trump administration is making an additional 30,000 seasonal worker visas available for 2019, according to a joint rule published Monday by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor.
The additional visas come on top of the visas already made available for the year.
The work visas, which allow employers to hire foreign workers for temporary, non-agricultural jobs, will only be available to workers who already received H-2B status in the past three fiscal years. Availability is also restricted to businesses who would "suffer irreparable harm" without the additional workers, US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on Monday.
The increase was expected, as USCIS alerted Capitol Hill in April that it intended to make this decision and the rule would be forthcoming.
In March, a group of senators asked Homeland Security to raise the number of available visas above the 66,000 statutory annual cap. The demand for seasonal workers was "so extreme" this year that the Labor Department's website almost crashed, according to a letter sent to then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
"The continued tightening of the labor market warrants this increase," wrote the senators, who argued that that many areas of the country lack a working-age population to fill the demand for seasonal jobs.
The business community has also advocated for additional seasonal visas.
In March, the US Chamber of Commerce urged the administration to take "immediate action" to authorize the maximum number of H-2B visas allowed by law.
"Without swift action on your part, employers across a range of industries, many of which are small businesses, will be unable to meet their workforce needs in the spring and summer months forcing them to reduce -- and in some cases, cease -- operations," wrote Executive Vice President Neil Bradley in a letter to Homeland Security and Labor leadership.
However, advocates of a tight immigration policy have said these visas depress wages and prevents American workers from getting jobs.
H-2B visas are also the type of visas that Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort has sought. In July, CNN reported that the Florida resort requested 61 H-2B visas for servers and cooks.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said lawmakers should set the cap to the specific level, so that the executive branch does not have to make the decision each year.
"The truth is that Congress is in the best position to establish the appropriate number of H-2B visas that American businesses should be allocated without harming U.S. workers," McAleenan said in a statement.
The increase of up to 30,000 additional workers is higher than previous years, according to DHS.