Government no longer granting temporary worker visas

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced it is no long accepting applications for the H-2B visa from employers hoping to hire temporary foreign employees. For industries that depend on foreign workers, such as construction, it could mean drastic workforce shortages during the summer months.

For the first time ever, the USCIS reached its mandatory cap of H-2B visa applications prior to the end of the fiscal year. According to officials, the agency received more than 100,000 applications for temporary visas. The agency reached its cap of 66,000 foreign workers on March 9.

According to many employers, it is often difficult to find Americans who are willing to work temporary jobs because of low pay, a lack of benefits and the short working term. The construction industry shouldn’t face as much hiring adversity as the hotel or restaurant industries, however, because of its higher wages. Still, the construction work force influxes as much as 11 percent during the summer, and many of those positions are filled by foreign workers.

Associated Builders and Contractors lobbyist Geoff Burr says the visa cap means finding workers is going to be an issue. “It’s definitely going to be a problem in some industries,” Burr said.

To help ease workforce shortages, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is supporting legislation in the Senate to raise the cap on the number of temporary worker visas granted. The House is currently discussing an identical bill.