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United States expands availability of temporary work visas for seasonal employees

Rebecca Barnabi
crawfish seafood food business
(© Aimee Lee Studios – stock.adobe.com)

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor announced the availability of the maximum amount of H-2B temporary nonagricultural work visas.

The visa program allows United States employers to hire seasonal, non-immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the workforce of existing American employees. Employers are eligible for the program if they declare an inability to hire enough American employees to do the temporary work, which is the case in the seafood industry, according to a press release. The seafood industry relies on H-2B employees to shuck oysters and process crabs.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia issued a response on Wednesday.

“Earlier this month I talked with Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas and learned that the Biden Administration planned to make additional H-2B visas available,” Warner said in the press release. “I thanked Secretary Mayorkas and told him how critical the H-2B program is for Virginia’s seafood businesses. Without access to H-2B workers, many of Virginia’s seafood businesses would simply have to close up shop. It’s critical that we help these businesses meet their labor needs so that we don’t lose these businesses forever.

Warner has advocated for the expansion of H-2B visas to ensure that seafood processors in Virginia have the seasonal workforce they need. In February, he and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia urged the Biden administration to make these additional H-2B visas available.

“I thank the Biden administration for making these additional visas available, but a permanent solution is needed,” Warner said in the press release. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to reform the H-2B visa program to ensure our seafood processors have the labor certainty they need for their businesses to grow and thrive.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.