Keating: 35,000 worker visas authorized

Congressman lauds Ukrainian mettle and Polish generosity. 

U.S. Rep. Bill Keating has good news for Island businesses in need of workers. -Rich Saltzberg

The Office of U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, D-Bourne, announced Thursday a large allotment of H-2B visas were authorized by the federal government. Keating, who represents the Vineyard as part of the 9th District, told The Times he has long spearheaded work on H-2B visas for the region, and found the announcement “exciting news.”

H-2B visas permit foreign nationals to temporarily work in the U.S. Keating said they are very important to the Island economy.

Keating said his office has been at work with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor to not only boost the overall number of workers, but the number of workers who are returning to jobs they have held before. Keating described returning workers as “trained” and “tried and tested” personnel, whom “employers want on the Vineyard and elsewhere.”

The federal cap for H-2B workers annually is 66,000. This number is typically broken down into two allotments of 33,000. This past winter season, the biannual allotment had 20,000 more H-2B visas than the cap. The new summer season allotment has 2,000 extra visas, for a total of 35,000 permissible workers. Keating said of those 35,000 workers, 23,000 are “designated as returning workers.”

“And those returning workers are trained already, ready to go,” Keating added. 

Keating noted the visas are more robust across the board as compared to years past. “The H-2B nonimmigrant program permits employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States,” a U.S. Department of Labor webpage states. “The employment must be of a temporary nature for a limited period of time, such as a onetime occurrence, seasonal need, peak load need, or intermittent need. The H-2B program requires the employer to attest to the Department of Labor that it will offer a wage that equals or exceeds the highest of the prevailing wage, applicable federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage, or local minimum wage to the H-2B nonimmigrant worker for the occupation in the area of intended employment during the entire period of the approved H-2B labor certification. The H-2B program also establishes certain recruitment and displacement standards in order to protect similarly employed U.S. workers.”

Doug Abdelnour, who owns Nancy’s in Oak Bluffs and utilizes H-2B visa workers there during the peak season, said, “It’s definitely good news” to hear about the allotment. However, Abdelnour said, he’s uncertain how many workers he’ll receive and who they’ll be, based in part on when he’s opening and a lottery built into the H-2B system. 

Overall, he said, “finding help and finding housing is getting worse and worse and worse.” He also said of the H-2B process, “It costs a fortune to do the paperwork — tens of thousands of dollars.” He described the system as often overtaxed and backed up. “They need more help,” he said.

Nonetheless, Abdelnour praised Keating for his work on H-2B visas. “We’re very lucky that Bill Keating has a history on the Vineyard … he really gets it,” he said. Abdelnour said a lot of other politicians and officials don’t fathom the needs and pressures of seasonal businesses on the Cape and Islands. 

Keating, who is the chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee’s Europe, Energy, the Environment, and Cyber subcommittee and a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems subcommittee, offered some remarks on the war in Ukraine. 

Keating said the “courage” of the Ukrainian military and militia “has been “extraordinary.”

He said they’ve “fended off” the Russians,” who are “pulling back to regroup.” He called the Russian’s regrouping “a concern.”

Keating said arms help from the U.S. and its allies is “flowing,” and will continue to. “I met yesterday with the Armed Services Committee, of which I’m a member, discussing how we can even accelerate some of that,” he said. 

Keating described Poles lodging war refugees from Ukraine in their homes an “amazing story,” though he cautioned the capacity to accept more refugees in Polish homes is close to “saturation because of the pure numbers.” 

Keating said his office has been working with the Biden administration to help Ukrainian refugees come to the U.S. if they have the anchor of family members here. 


  1. Many people don’t know how hard Bill Keating works for our district because he’s not out there on cable news grandstanding or stoking division. He does what Congressmen and women SHOULD be doing, advocating for the needs of their constituents.

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