VIDEO: In House Appropriations Committee, Pingree Secures Provision to Issue Additional H-2B Visas
Washington, July 13, 2021
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today advanced an increase in the number of H-2B visas through an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill. The provision would give DHS the authority to add up to 64,716 additional visas in FY2022 which could nearly double the number of H-2B visas available next year to seasonal businesses in Maine and across the country. Click here to watch Congresswoman Pingree speak to the House Appropriations Committee on her amendment.
“[This amendment] doesn’t create any new policy, it simply extends into FY2022 a much-needed patch for the H-2B program. [H-2B visas] provide our seasonal businesses with a certified source of labor to meet demand during peak season when domestic workers just are not available.” Pingree said of her amendment in a speech to the full House Appropriations Committee. “I represent a state that is highly dependent on tourism…people are anxious to be on a vacation this year—they want to get out and go to the hotels, they want to be in the restaurants. But for so many businesses the number one issue is insufficient staffing.”
Pingree continued: “I think we all agree that we need reforms to the H-2B program…but until we get that reform across the finish line, we need to extend this patch. There is a very real need right now, for seasonal industries for additional visas and I know it will continue. So we must do what we can to help those seasonal businesses.”
H-2B visas are nonimmigrant visas that allow employers to temporarily hire foreign employees for one-time occurrences, seasonal needs, peak-load needs, or intermittent needs. The Pingree amendment extends a provision from previous years giving DHS authority to provide additional visas. However, in the last several years DHS did not issue as many visas as the Department of Labor had certified to be available, which meant that the demonstrated demand for help by seasonal workers in tourism-heavy areas like Maine was not met. Pingree’s amendment makes the increase in the H-2B cap mandatory, not discretionary. DHS has requested Congress set the number of H-2B visas through legislation.
Pingree has long been a supporter of increased H-2B visa allocation, cosponsoring amendments and authoring bipartisan letters. Most recently, in March 2021, Pingree sent a letter with Senators King and Collins to DHS Secretary Mayorkas urging him to release additional visas, pursuant to the language Pingree added to the DHS Appropriations bill in FY2021. Additionally, Pingree is an original cosponsor of H.R. 3987, the Returning Worker Exception Act, which would reform the H-2B program by exempting returning workers from the outdated numerical cap as well as supporting the hiring, promoting and retaining of American workers and the expansion of the companies that use this valuable seasonal guest worker program.