Rounds seeks release of additional seasonal worker visas

The Biden administration must raise the H-2B seasonal worker visa cap to help struggling businesses find additional workers as the economy recovers, urged U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and a bipartisan group of 34 senators.

American businesses from industries such as tourism and hospitality, landscaping, fairs and carnivals, seafood processing, golf courses, reforestation, contractors and horse racing depend on seasonal employment to meet the demand across many industries, according to a Feb. 9 letter Sen. Rounds and his colleagues sent to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Marty Walsh.

“Without meaningful H-2B cap relief, many seasonal businesses will be forced to scale back operations, cancel or default on contracts, lay off full-time U.S. workers and, in some cases, close operations completely,” the lawmakers wrote. “By taking action to release and process additional H-2B visas, seasonal businesses and U.S. workers across the country will avoid these harmful consequences and instead help contribute to the American economy.”

Sen. Rounds and the lawmakers called for the maximum number of H-2B visas allowable to be released in fiscal year 2022, according to their letter, which notes that DHS is authorized to release a total of 64,716 additional visas this fiscal year, 20,000 of which have already been released, leaving tens of thousands of additionally authorized visas available for the remainder of the year.  

Sen. Rounds and the lawmakers wrote they are also concerned that “the unprecedented demand for the program” has led to delays in processing labor certifications at DOL that could prevent employers from completing the H-2B application process before the April 1 start date for the second half of FY 2022. They requested that DOL institute emergency procedures, which will allow employers to submit their recruitment reports immediately upon receiving a Notice of Acceptance from DOL, saving two weeks.

“We further request that your agencies take steps to process pending H-2B applications in advance of the start of the April 1 hiring period for the second half of FY22, including by instituting emergency procedures previously used by DOL to address labor certification processing delays,” Sen. Rounds and his colleagues wrote.

Among the lawmakers who joined Sen. Rounds in signing the letter were U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Thune (R-SD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Tim Scott (R-SC), Angus King (I-ME), and Chris Coons (D-DE).