Shaheen Statement on DHS Announcement of Additional Temporary Work Visas

March 05, 2020

**DHS Heeds Shaheen Call, Announces 35K Supplemental Temporary Visas**

(Washington, DC)— U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a senior member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, issued the following statement after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will make available an additional 35,000 H-2B temporary work visas for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2020. In January, Shaheen and a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers called on DHS to increase the statutory cap of H-2B visas for FY2020. Under the law, DHS has the authority to release up to 64,176 additional visas for the remainder of the year. 

H-2B workers support American jobs and small businesses, and the H-2B program is an important asset to New Hampshire industries such as tourism and landscaping. Bipartisan research has found a direct correlation between increased numbers of H-2B workers and a rise in pay across the board for all employees. As required by law, employers must first make a concerted effort to hire American workers to fill open positions. H-2B visas fill needs for American small businesses when there are not enough able and willing American workers to fill the temporary, seasonal positions.  

“While I’m glad the Department of Homeland Security is heeding my call to release these additional visas, I’m disappointed it falls well below the threshold allowed under the law. It’s also frustrating that these visas will be made available in two separate periods, making it difficult for New Hampshire’s small seasonal employers to plan for their peak operating season that’s only months away,” said Shaheen. “Seasonal workers are critical to New Hampshire’s tourism and landscaping workforce, which play an important role in our state’s economy. The administration is releasing barely half of what they could make available under the law – it’s disappointing they didn’t take full advantage of this opportunity to help businesses that rely on this program.” 

The additional visas announced today fall short of the projected 45,000 that were reported last month, and well below the threshold of 64,176 that is permitted under the law for FY2020. Increasing the number of visas has long been a priority for Senator Shaheen, and she has been urging the Trump administration to raise the overall number of H-2B visas. During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing last month, Shaheen specifically questioned Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf about this issue and the urgent need to make these visas available for New Hampshire businesses who need to hire workers ahead of their busy season. Senator Shaheen worked with a bipartisan group of Senators last November as the funding deadline approached and urged Senate and Appropriations Committee leadership to provide H-2B visa cap relief for seasonal employers in any funding agreement.

Senator Shaheen previously visited Hart’s Turkey Farm in Meredith to discuss the importance of temporary visas and the role they play in New Hampshire’s tourism sector. Last year, Shaheen sent a bipartisan letter urging then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to increase the number of H-2B visas for temporary foreign workers in 2019, and the administration subsequently released additional visas.