Employers hiring seasonal guest workers may get visa cap relief

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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) More seasonal guest workers may be coming to the United States.

According to Kim Clarke, partner and immigration attorney for Varnum LLP, the Department of Homeland Security authorized an additional 35,000 supplemental H-2B visas for temporary non-agricultural workers to come to this country.

The cap for H-2B visas was 66,000. The visa allows workers from different countries to work for 10 months or less. Katie Vargas, operations manager for Great Lakes Ag Labor Services LLC, said the workers can work for hotels, food processing companies and landscaping companies, among other vocations.

Vargas said the demand for more seasonal workers from outside of the country is a result of low unemployment in the United States.

“Seasonal and temporary jobs have been increasingly difficult to fill,” she said. “The unemployment rate has been dropping and people are looking for year-round jobs — year-round employment. So, employers trying to find workers for these jobs that are really tied to a season or just tied to a time of the year have had difficulty, and this cap on the H-2B visa hasn’t been adjusted based on the number of people or companies who are actually petitioning to fill the labor shortage. There are companies that are in dire need for workers to come up and fill these positions and it is really harming businesses.”

Clarke said employers do try to recruit American workers first, but because of the low unemployment rate, employers are finding almost no applicants.

As a result, Clarke said employers and the government are working hand-in-hand to bring in law-abiding seasonal workers to the U.S., who will then return to their countries once their work is completed.

“Once employers complete the recruitment process and show that they still cannot find workers in the U.S., they then apply to the Department of Labor to be approved for the number of workers needed,” she said. “The Department of Labor reviews their contracts and makes sure that they are compliant with all the regulations, and if they are approved for a certain number of workers, the employer must take the next step to apply with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“At that level, the USCIS reviews the application to make sure employers are compliant, again, with regulations. Once there is approval for the number of workers, the workers are then recruited from whichever foreign country the employer is recruiting in, and each of the workers has to go to the U.S. consulate abroad and then they are interviewed to make sure, again, they are meeting all the requirements for the program. Once they are approved for a visa, they can then travel to the U.S. to complete the work.”

According to the Department of Labor, the H-2B program requires employers to offer a wage that equals or exceeds the highest of the prevailing wage, applicable federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage or local minimum wage.

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