WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration will make available an additional 15,000 H-2B visas, meant for temporary non-agricultural workers, this fiscal year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Friday.
The increase would help relieve U.S. businesses that depend on seasonal labor during the busy summer tourist season. Many of them had complained that a visa shortage was pushing them toward economic ruin.
The U.S. government had issued 66,000 such visas this year, through a lottery for the first time, versus the usual first-come, first-served basis. Businesses which usually receive enough visas for temporary workers reported this year that many of their applications had been denied.
“The limitations on H-2B visas were originally meant to protect American workers, but when we enter a situation where the program unintentionally harms American businesses it needs to be reformed,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement.
Last year the Trump administration increased the number of H-2B visas by 15,000 for fiscal 2017.
U.S. law caps the number of H-2B visas at 66,000 per year, divided into the summer and winter seasons, but in this year’s omnibus spending bill, Congress allowed for an increase.
Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by James Dalgleish and Richard Chang