In April, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the Biden administration would increase the number of non-agricultural H-2B temporary visas by 22,000.
That number is added to the 66,000 available annually for U.S. employers, many of whom rely heavily on foreign nationals in the landscaping, construction and tourism industries in Colorado and elsewhere.
Petitions already surpass some cap limits
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began taking petitions for the additional H-2B visas on May 25, and by June 1, the agency had already received the maximum 16,000 requests for returning workers.
Petitions will be accepted through July 8 for the remaining 6,000 slots, which are held for nationals from the Golden Triangle countries – El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. If all those spots are not filled, DHS will open the remaining allotments to returning workers of any nationality.
Chamber of Commerce urges further action
Businesses across the country are struggling to fill a record-high number of job openings. But, a shortage of H-2B and H-1B workers is not a recent phenomenon. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says while the increase is a positive step, it wants the White House and Congress to double the cap on employment-based visas.
For years, economists predicted the U.S. would need a steady increase in foreign workers as the country’s population gets older. The complicating factor in the past year was the pandemic, which completely upended the nation’s immigration system along with restrictions ordered by the Trump administration.
Chamber representatives say they are optimistic that lawmakers will expand legal immigration numbers due to the worsening labor shortage, especially when the impacts are seen for seasonal businesses, such as landscaping companies and amusement parks that don’t have enough workers to operate this summer.