Finding staff for seasonal jobs — resort help, camp counselors, hotel staff, landscapers and more — is challenging at any time, but this summer looks to be particularly difficult for hiring. With low unemployment nationwide and business booming in many resort areas as Covid-weary Americans look to take vacations, finding sufficient seasonal help can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
The H-2B visa program has become a lifeline for many of these employers, as it permits them to hire noncitizens temporarily to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the US. The employment must be for a limited period of time, such as a one-time occurrence, or for seasonal or intermittent need. But it seems there are never enough visas to fill the need.
At the urging of states impacted by the seasonal worker shortage, the US Departments of Homeland Security and Labor last week made available an additional 35,000 H-2B visas for temporary nonagricultural workers through the remainder of fiscal 2022, which ends Sept. 30. The additional allotment will supplement the previous supply of 33,000 H-2B visas, all of which have been claimed.
“These additional H-2B visas will help employers meet the demand for seasonal workers at this most critical time, when there is a serious labor shortage,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “The visas are accompanied by significant worker protections and provide a safe and lawful pathway for individuals to come to the United States and earn wages in jobs that are not filled by American workers.”
The supplemental H-2B visa allocation comprises 23,500 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa or were otherwise granted H-2B status during one of the last three fiscal years. The remaining 11,500 visas are reserved for nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti, regardless of whether they are returning workers. The cap of 33,000 visas for the second half of fiscal 2022 was reached on Feb. 25.
US Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, both of Maine, led the push for the additional visas, noting that without the additional workers made available by the increased allotment, many small businesses would be unable to open or would have to curtail their operations, hurting local communities and the rest of their workforces.
“Although these additional visas will help provide relief to many Maine small businesses during the busy summer season, there is still an overwhelming need given the current tight labor market and record low unemployment. We must improve the H-2B program to ensure Maine small businesses do not continue to suffer from a lack of workers,” the senators said in a joint statement.
“The severe worker shortage that we have been experiencing in the hospitality industry will be somewhat mitigated by this much-needed announcement from the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security,” said Greg Dugal, director of government affairs for HospitalityMaine.