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Warner, Tillis lead effort outlining concerns with H-2B visa cap

mark warnerU.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and a bipartisan group of 29 other senators sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, outlining concerns that the H-2B visa statutory cap will be reached soon. The Senators requested the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an audit to determine the number of unused visas during the first half of the fiscal year, and also requested that any unused visas be made available to eligible petitioners.

The H-2B temporary non-agricultural visa program is vital to helping small and seasonal employers across the Commonwealth sustain their businesses, and supports Virginia jobs dependent upon seasonal business industries.

The letter was also signed by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Barrasso (R-WY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Scott (R-SC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Burr (R-NC), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), James Lankford (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Bob Casey (D-PA).

“In recent weeks, numerous businesses across the United States have contacted our offices expressing concern that the H-2B statutory cap will be reached soon, jeopardizing their small businesses and their American workers,” the Senators wrote. “As a result, small and seasonal businesses across the country, such as seafood processors and other critical hospitality and service businesses that are vital to the local economies in our states, will likely be locked out of a necessary program that they rely on during their busiest seasons. Failure to access these critical workers will harm small businesses, American workers, and the economy.”

“In 2015, after previously announcing that the statutory cap had been reached, USCIS determined that more than 5,000 unused visas were available,” the Senators continued. “Soon thereafter, the agency began accepting applications from businesses still hoping to hire workers through the program. With that in mind, we respectfully request that your office conduct an immediate audit of the number of unused visas from the first half of the fiscal year and project the likely usage rate for the second half of the fiscal year….As with prior practice, any unused visas should be provided to eligible businesses that have been unable to secure an adequate number of workers due to the cap.”

The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program allows U.S. employers to hire immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the existing American workforce. Employers are required to declare that there were not enough U.S. workers who were available to do the temporary work. The number of H-2B visas is typically capped at 66,000 per year by the Department of Homeland Security.

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