Warner pushes for clarification regarding H-2B visas for seafood companies seeking seasonal employees

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U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) is pressing Senate leaders on the urgent need to secure H-2B visas for seasonal seafood workers in Virginia and around the United States.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sen. Warner urged the U.S. Department of State to make clear that seafood companies seeking H-2B visas for their seasonal workers qualify for national interest exceptions (NIEs) to Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052, which suspend entry to the United States for certain immigrant visa applicants through Dec. 31, 2020.

This clarification would help local businesses plan for seasonal seafood workers to obtain H-2B work visas for “travel necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.”

“With a half-billion-dollar economic impact, Virginia seafood is a key industry in the Commonwealth. Its success largely depends on seasonal workers, who shuck oysters, clams, and crabs, hand pick seafood meat, pack fish, and perform other critical tasks,” wrote Sen. Warner. “While seafood businesses have made good faith efforts to find local seasonal workers, employers often must rely on H-2B visas to fill difficult and labor-intensive positions. The industry is already confronting significant business challenges due to the pandemic, and now faces the potential for further economic harm unless it is able to access H-2B visas.”

“In Virginia, the financial hardship of failing to secure visas for H-2B workers will be extreme, with the burden falling heavily on small, seasonal Virginia seafood companies already facing economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 crisis,” he continued. “Without concrete guidance on the H-2B visa process as it relates to the Presidential Proclamations, our seafood industry remains in a perilous position, as businesses seek to survive the pandemic. I urge you to ensure congressionally-authorized H-2B visas are granted to seafood workers who meet the NIE guidelines.”

The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program allows U.S. employers to hire seasonal, non-immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the existing American workforce. In order to be eligible for the program, employers are required to declare that there are not enough U.S. workers available to do the temporary work.

The text of the full letter is here.


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