Skip to Content

Press Releases

Pingree Urges Administration to Increase Number of H-2B Visas

Current number of H-2B visas fails to adequately meet our nation’s temporary workforce needs

Washington, March 6, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) as well as U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (R-M.D.) today led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen urging the administration to immediately increase the statutory cap of H-2B visas for fiscal year 2019 as authorized by the recent appropriations package.

The appropriations package signed into law last month authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, to release up to approximately 69,320 additional H-2B visas for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2019.

“Many seasonal businesses in Maine are starting to ramp up but struggling to find workers. H-2B visas help these businesses fill positions and operate during our state’s busy tourist season. I hope the Department of Homeland Security will respond to our bipartisan letter and understand the urgent economic need to issue the necessary number of additional H-2B visas before it’s too late,“ said Pingree.

“Given the near historic low unemployment rate, the constant oversubscription to the program and its importance to our local economies, we strongly urge you to use the discretion afforded your office in the most recent appropriations bill to release, without delay and to the greatest extent allowed by law, additional H-2B visas sufficient to meet the certified demand of our seasonal employers,” the members of Congress wrote. “If significant H-2B cap relief is not provided, there will be severe consequences for seasonal businesses and our economy generally.”  

Full text of the letter: 

Dear Secretary Nielsen,

As you know, H. J. Res. 31 –Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (Pub. L. 116-6), signed into law on February 15th, 2019, confers authority to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to, in her discretion and in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, release up to approximately 69,320 additional temporary, non-immigrant H-2B visas in excess of the statutory annual cap of 66,000.

According to Department of Labor (DOL) data, the demand for temporary, seasonal workers, with a start date between April 1, 2019 and the end of fiscal year 2019, exceeds 95,000 workers– almost three times the number of available H-2B visas for that time period. Given the near historic low unemployment rate, the constant oversubscription to the program and its importance to our local economies, we strongly urge you to use the discretion afforded your office in the most recent appropriations bill to release, without delay and to the greatest extent allowed by law, additional H-2B visas sufficient to meet the certified demand of our seasonal employers.

If significant H-2B cap relief is not provided, there will be severe consequences for seasonal businesses and our economy generally. Several seasonal businesses denied access to the program due to the insufficient availability of visas have already been forced to scale back their operations, cancel or default on contracts, lay off full-time U.S. workers, and, in some cases, shutter their operations entirely.  Failing to release additional H-2B visas will only result in more closures or scale backs for these businesses. We would also note that while we were pleased to see you exercise your discretion to release additional visas in previous years, the 15,000 additional visas released in both FY 17 & FY 18, were wholly inadequate to meet the demonstrated, certified needs of our seasonal employers.

Further, in past years, rulemaking associated with the release of additional visas significantly delayed our employers’ access to them. We do not believe that additional rulemaking is required this year due to the timing of the law’s enactment. In 2017 and 2018, Congress did not pass the DHS appropriations until April and March, respectively. The announcement of the release of the additional 15,000 visas in each of these years was not made until the summer (July 17, 2017 and May 31, 2018). At those times, both DHS and DOL asserted that additional rulemaking was required because labor certifications provided in early winter were deemed to have become “stale” necessitating a fresh test of the labor market.  This is not the case now. This year’s labor certifications have been issued within the past two (2) months and thus are concurrent with current labor market conditions.  We urge the Department to announce quickly its intention to exercise the authority provided by Congress by providing the full amount of visas authorized and simply continue processing H-2B petitions until any additional visa allotment is exhausted.

As a result of the discretion conferred by the recently passed appropriations bill, your department has the opportunity to assist these seasonal employers by allowing them access to a labor pool that can meet their demonstrated and certified needs. As such, we urge you to expeditiously release a sufficient number of additional visas (up to the 69,320 allowed by law) to allow these vital businesses to continue to fulfill their contracts, retain their American workers, make additional capital investments, expand their businesses and maximize their contribution to the American economy.

Sincerely,

The letter was signed by 138 Members of Congress, including: U.S. Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), John Thune (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and U.S. Reps. Ralph Abraham (R-La.), Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Andy Barr (R-Ky.), Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Mike Bost (R-Ill.), Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), John Carter (R-TX), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Kan.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Mike Conaway (R-TX), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Henry Cuellar (R-TX), Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Ron Estes (R-Kan.), Bill Flores (R-Texas), Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Garret Graves (R-La.), Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Michael Guest (R-Miss.), Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Clay Higgins (R-La.), French Hill (R-Ark.), Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), David Joyce (R-Ohio), David William Keating (D-Mass.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Bob Latta (R-Ohio),  Billy Long (R-Mo.), Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), John Moolenaar (R-Mich.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), Tom Rice (R-S.C.), Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), Michael Turner (R-Ohio), Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), Jefferson Van Drew (D-N.J.), Filemon Vela (D-Texas), Ann Wagner (R-Mo.),Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), Steve Watkins (R-Kan.), Randy Weber (R-Texas), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Roger Williams (R-Texas), Robert Wittman (R-Va.), Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), Don Young (R-Alaska), and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.)

Important Facts About The H-2B Visa Program

  • H-2B workers support American jobs and small businesses. Every H-2B worker creates or sustains 4.64 American jobs on average according to a study conducted by the American Enterprise Institute.
  • As required by law, employers must first make a concerted effort to hire American workers to fill open positions. H-2B visas fill needs for American small businesses when there are not enough able and willing American workers to fill the temporary, seasonal positions.
  • Employers often have to spend more money to hire temporary H-2B workers, who are paid a prevailing wage that is set by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Link to signed letter available here.

###

Back to top