Some immigrants come to states like Maryland on H-2B guest worker visas. The program allows a maximum three-year stay in the United States for foreign nationals who are willing to work low-wage jobs in certain industries. Federal lawmakers are currently working to expand the H-2B program so that businesses can hire more foreign workers.
Last year, the annual cap on H-2B visas was increased from 66,000 to 264,000. When the limit was 66,000, there was a lot of criticism from business advocates saying that the quota hurt U.S. industries. In May, nine members of the House of Representatives urged the Appropriations Committee to keep the higher cap on guest worker visas. The House members say that there are a lot of businesses that cannot operate without guest workers.
A higher cap on H-2B visas is generally supported by Republicans and criticized by Democrats. Democrats tend to dislike the program because they believe it does not provide adequate protections for the guest workers that perform jobs like seafood processing, housekeeping and landscaping. Some Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Sessions, criticize the H-2B program for its impact on U.S. citizens. Sessions has claimed that the H-2B visa program keeps wages low and increases unemployment.
A foreign national who is interested in applying for an employment visa through the H-2B visa program might want to speak to an immigration attorney to learn what is required in the application process. An attorney may also be able to help a business owner who requires guest workers to fill jobs during a particular season when local labor is very difficult to find.