Legislation introduced in the US House in early November by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, would increase the availability of visas for the federal guest worker program utilized by the seafood industry and others to fill jobs during peak periods.
H.R. 3918, the Strengthen Employment And Seasonal Opportunities Now (SEASON) would increase the availability of H-2B visas by not counting a foreign worker receiving an H-2B visa for a given year against that year’s cap if that worker received a visa in any of the three prior years, Chabot said, in a statement announcing the legislation.
“Rather than just indiscriminately raising the H-2B cap, this approach places the emphasis on encouraging successful participants to return to the program.”
H.R. 3918 would require, as does current legislation, that employers first attempt to hire domestic workers for seasonal positions. The employers must certify to the Department of Homeland Security that they attempted to recruit domestic workers for the position and that they offered the same terms and working conditions to the foreign worker that they offered to domestic workers.
Chabot said that every year thousands of employers turn to foreign workers through the H-2B visa program to meet temporary, seasonal employment needs, but that the number of available visas for seasonal workers is inadequate to meet the existing demand.
The current program’s annual cap of 66,000 H-2B visas is inadequate and often reached early in the year, leaving many employers unable to meet their seasonal employment needs, he said.
Chabot’s bill would remove the Labor Department from the regulatory process and put administration of the program solely under the Department of Homeland Security.
The legislation also includes a prohibition on temporary foreign workers receiving federal benefits, including federal health care subsidies and refundable tax credits.
To ensure that the program is truly a temporary program, H.R. 3918 requires that any position being filled by a foreign worker will last no longer than one year and occur within a peak season, Chabot said.
Bill information is at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/3918