WASHINGTON, D.C.— An additional 20,000 H-2B visas for the first half of fiscal year 2022 will become available to employers Saturday, Jan. 28, to help small businesses fill seasonal job openings.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, announced Thursday, Jan. 27, that the departments of Homeland Security and Labor issued a joint rule increasing the number of available visas, which are critical to hospitality businesses that hire seasonal employees.

In their announcement, the senators said they urging DHS “to make additional visas available for the second half of the year as quickly as possible to ensure that Maine businesses are prepared for the busy summer season.”

“This announcement is welcome news for Maine’s hospitality industry and will help protect the jobs of Mainers who fill year-round positions,” Collins and King said in a joint statement. “These additional visas are particularly critical as Maine’s restaurants, hotels, inns, and other businesses are facing persistent workforce shortages, which can force employers to cut back parts of their operations and curtail hours.

“The administration should also expedite the visa application and review process so that businesses can get the help they need when they need it,” they said in the press release.

H-2B workers support American jobs and small businesses, the senators pointed out. 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.

Eligible employers who have already completed a test of the U.S. labor market to verify that there are no U.S. workers who are willing, qualified and able to perform the seasonal nonagricultural work can file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to seek additional H-2B workers.  They must submit an attestation with their petition to demonstrate their business is likely to suffer irreparable harm without a supplemental workforce.