Immigration officials announced this week that they are raising the ceiling for visas available under the H-2B temporary visa work program. The H-2B temporary visa work program brings in low-skilled, seasonal workers from abroad, but employers must demonstrate that their businesses would be harmed if their positions aren’t filled in order for them to hire H-2B visa workers. Unfortunately for the agricultural industry, the program excludes agricultural jobs, but the program does help companies in industries who have difficulty finding workers such as hospitality, landscaping, and seafood processing. Gillian Christensen, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman, stated:
The impact that we want [the visa increases] to have is to save American businesses that face potential irreparable harm so that they can keep their businesses going and keep their American employees employed.
The number of visas allowed under the H-2B program is limited to only 66,000 this year. The 66,000 temporary work visas are split into two parts for the workers that begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year and for those that begin in the second half of the fiscal year. However, that ceiling has been raised to allow an additional 15,000 workers to come into the U.S. to work. This is great news for businesses that use low-skilled foreign workers, but it is not great news for unions that represent American employees in the affected industries. Unions are worried that the increase in H-2B visas can quickly displace permanent workers, but we will have to wait and see what the affects of the increase in this visa program creates.