The Biden administration is releasing an additional 35,000 H-2B seasonal work visas to U.S. employers.
These visas are a lifeline for businesses in hospitality, landscaping and other non-agricultural industries that have periodic surges in labor need for which there is not enough from the local workforce. In fact, employers must first certify to the Labor Department that qualified local workers are not available.
Congress, which once upon a time had a bipartisan consensus on the value of an international workforce, should endeavor to permanently expand and reform both H-2B and the related H-2A visa program, which can be used for seasonal agricultural work.
While the numbers rise, the program should improve with stronger efforts to curb exploitation of workers, who often feel that they can’t speak up about employer abuses or predatory recruiters for fear of losing their status. Policymakers should also consider making some visas available for full-year increments; dairy farms, for example, need workers year-round.