The Department of Labor (DOL) issued a joint rule May 21 making available an additional 22,000 H-2B visas that will help small businesses fill seasonal job openings. Qualifying employers can begin applying May 25. These visas will supplement the previous supply of 33,000 H-2B visas for the second half of the current fiscal year, all of which have been claimed.

In March, Senators Collins and King and Rep. Pingree sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to increase the number of H-2B visas. Sen. Collins also led a letter in April signed by 10 Senators, including Sen. King, calling on DHS and DOL to expedite their rulemaking process to make the additional 22,000 visas available for the summer season. Also last month, Sen. King urged President Biden to rescind a Trump ban on seasonal and cultural exchange visas. In addition, in February, Senator Collins secured a commitment from U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to work to ensure that there are sufficient visas to meet the needs of seasonal businesses.

“The release of these additional visas is welcome news for Maine’s hospitality industry, which desperately needs additional workers to supplement its Maine workforce for the busy summer season that is about to begin,” the delegation said in a joint statement. “After experiencing significant disruptions last year due to the pandemic, Maine’s hospitality industry is now facing an estimated shortage of 16,000 workers that is forcing many employers to cut back parts of their operations and curtail hours when they should be focused on recovering. We strongly pushed to expedite the release of these visas, which will provide support to these seasonal businesses at a critical time and protect the jobs of Mainers who fill year-round positions at these businesses.”

H-2B workers support American jobs and small businesses, according to the statement released by the Congressional delegation. Bipartisan research has found a direct correlation between increased numbers of H-2B workers and a rise in pay across the board for all employees, according to the statement. 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.

Starting May 25, eligible employers who have already completed a test of the U.S. labor market to verify that there are no U.S. workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform the seasonal nonagricultural work can file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to seek additional H-2B workers. They must submit an attestation with their petition to demonstrate their business is likely to suffer irreparable harm without a supplemental workforce.