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DHS increases number of H-2B visas for summer

NATIONAL ROOFING CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION (NRCA): The Department of Homeland Security has nearly doubled the number of temporary guest worker visas available this summer, according to The Washington Post. DHS and the Department of Labor plan to grant 30,000 more H-2B visas this summer in addition to the 33,000 that already were planned.

The H-2B visa allows foreign workers to come to the U.S. legally and work for several months at companies such as landscapers, construction companies, amusement parks or hotels. In 2018, about 80 percent of these visas went to people from Mexico and Central America.

There is bipartisan support in Congress pushing the administration to take action. A group of senators, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), sent a letter to the Trump administration urging it to let in more H-2B workers. DHS decided at the end of March to increase the number of visas offered and is expected to publish details in the Federal Register soon.

The H-2B program is supposed to grant 66,000 visas per year, with about half for the winter and half for the summer, but Congress gave the Trump administration the authority to issue an additional 69,000 this fiscal year. The Trump administration is on track to grant 96,000 H-2B visas this fiscal year. DHS ultimately decided to issue the extra 30,000 to people who have held H-2B visas before.

These visas typically are all gone within minutes of the application process opening. Many firms say they are in desperate need of workers and have no other options. The government says it received 30 times more H-2B visa applications this year compared with 2018. NRCA has been pushing for additional H-2B visas to address demand for workers and wrote to then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to urge them to approve additional visas for 2019.


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