June 22, 2021

Maine officials urge businesses to hire foreign workers

2 min read

Maine labor officials are urging businesses to take advantage of additional seasonal visas for foreign workers after the Biden administration’s decision to increase the number of people allowed into the country to work.

Beginning Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security increased the cap for seasonal guest workers, adding another 22,000 visas for companies looking to hire landscapers, fisherman and other foreign labor to help fill a labor shortage. The new H-2B visas are in addition to the 66,000 visas the government makes available every year to employers

In Maine, state labor officials are encouraging businesses to take advantage of the additional workers to fill vacancies with the crucial summer tourism months approaching.

“Many Maine businesses rely on temporary workers during the busy summer tourism season,” Maine Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said in a statement. “I encourage qualifying businesses who are still looking to hire nonagricultural, nonimmigrant temporary workers to consider taking advantage of these additional visas to help fill the gaps in their workforce.” 

Greg Dugal of HospitalityMaine said seasonal employers are eager to access some of the 22,000 additional international workers available through the visa cap increase.

“It is no secret that there is a shortage of workers in general in every state and that this effort will be one of many ways to resolve that issue for what looks to be an incredibly busy summer travel season in Maine,” Dugal said in a statement.

The H-2B visas are intended to fill jobs in qualifying businesses that would “suffer irreparable harm” without bringing in foreign workers to support their operations.

Of the 22,000 new visas, at least 6,000 will be set aside for applicants from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The remainder will be offered to workers regardless of their nationality if they currently have an H2-B visa or have been issued one in the past three years. 

In April, President Joe Biden lifted a ban on the guest-worker visa imposed by the Trump administration last June amid the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. To hire a foreign worker on an H-2B visa, employers were required first try to hire an American worker for the opening and certify that there are none available to fill the position.

Employers submitted nearly 97,000 applications for seasonal visas this year, according to federal data.

Maine also relies heavily on agricultural guest workers under the separate H-2A visa program, which has no limit set by Congress.

This article was originally posted on Maine officials urge businesses to hire foreign workers

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