The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has cleared a plan to issue 30,000 extra seasonal H-2B visas in the coming months, according to the Wall Street Journal. The move, which would raise the total number of Summer 2019 visas for temporary foreign workers from 33,000 to 63,000, was first announced last month by the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Labor.
Only 15,000 such additional workers were allowed into the country last year, across the summer and winter months combined. Then, in January, U.S. employers shocked the Department of Labor by requesting more than 96,000 H-2B visas--so many that the department's online processing system, iCERT, crashed.
"Ultimately, the goal is to hire locally," Mike Williams, lodging manager at Royal Anchor, a family-owned seashore resort in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, told Inc. at the time. "But it's impossible for a seasonal business that is only open for six months."
That echoes a growing trend among seasonal businesses, many of which have struggled in recent years to keep themselves staffed during busy seasons. Some have dealt with the low numbers of H-2B visas allowed by finding creative workarounds like hiring workers from U.S. territories like Puerto Rico, who don't need immigrant visas.
If the plan proceeds, the extra H-2B visas will be specifically awarded to foreign workers who have held them in the past, the Journal reports.