Additional 30,000 H-2B visas announced

Visa cap increased as Island business season approaches.

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Nancy's in Oak Bluffs is one of many popular seasonal restaurants that rely on foreign workers. — Brittany Bowker

In a win for seasonal businesses that use foreign workers, U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, D-Bourne, has announced an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of the 2019 fiscal year, more than double what was approved above the cap last year.

The H-2B nonimmigrant visa program, which is an important part of the Island’s seasonal economy, allows U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals for temporary nonagricultural jobs.

These supplemental visas mark the third year in a row the Department of Homeland Security has increased the H-2B visa cap.

“This is great news for our area,” Keating said in a phone conversation with The Times. “This one is going earlier than last year, and it’s double what it was last year to help meet demand.”

Island employers have struggled to staff their businesses in recent years due to the H-2B visa cap. Under the Trump administration, the number of seasonal foreign workers allowed to work in the country dropped from 80,000 in 2016 to 33,000 in 2017.

The cap, which is set at 66,000 split in half over the fiscal year, was created to protect American workers, but instead left seasonal businesses shorthanded. This year, the supplemental visas will be available only to applicants who have held an H-2B visa in the past three years.

While no date has been set for when the 30,000 supplemental visas will be available, Keating said the public and businesses will be updated as the information becomes available.

Keating added that things were hitting a critical stage in terms of seasonal employment, especially for the Island.

“You can’t have a successful hospitality industry without having dining or function spaces, lodging places. And if these things are diminished, the attraction from a tourist industry standpoint is diminished,” Keating said. “This is the lifeblood of the Island economically.”

The visa program was one of the things Islanders talked to Keating about during his visit to Martha’s Vineyard a week ago.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder how many of these increased number of visas have already been earmarked for Mar-a-Largo jobs?

      • andrew– is your comment some sort of foil to deflect from the fact that trump has been hiring illegal immigrants for years ? Or perhaps you think since he is white and privileged, we should not look at any thing he did previous to being caught ?

        • If we are willing to let illegals enter the US without restraint then I dont see any problem with hiring them. How can you be against hiring illegals if you dont care about the border? If you dont want a wall it must mean no one is coming in illegally or you dont care about illegal entry. I thought you were one of the people who ranted against illegals on MV who work for less, dont pay taxes and send money home. Or maybe there arent people like that here. I am confused. Or loading the house up with more people than the septic system can handle—were you not one of those complaining? Should we have a system that lets people come in on merit or should we just have open borders like the EU so that illegal migrants from Africa can float into Italy and make their way up to say Sweden and live off the government. Please clarify.

        • @Andrew – I believe I’ve been the most frequent complainant about landlords overfilling a resident and straining the septic system; that was any homeowner, not the ones renting to H-2B visa holders. Not a popular observation about those depending on rental income.

          As for payroll taxes, fairly certain those have been discussed. Those workers fall into two groups. First group has Fed tax withheld; they pay for benefits that they’re never eligible to receive. Great for everyone with citizenship. The second group are those the employer never reports hiring; the employer simply pockets those funds.

      • Mustn’t forget Trump Tower, Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J, and Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, N.Y.

        I suppose now that there’s a wall at the southern border, those four Trump enterprises will now be forced to hire undocumented workers.

        I’m not sure where Trump Model Management lands in all this; are foreign models still told to lie, rather claim they are here on tourist visas?

    • Salt –many businesses have housing for their employees— and if the town’s would get off the idea that every person needs more space than our ancestors needed to raise a family of 12, we might be able to get somewhere with the housing issue here.

      • I’ve never supported housing at the airport but why not? The qualifier for this would be a full schedule of public transit between housing and downtowns (with daytime stops at beaches), covering from crack of daylight jobs through late-night places of entertainment.

  2. Not only good for our businesses and our community, but a great opportunity for thousands of hard working young people to visit a country that has been “great” for centuries.

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