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Updated: April 28, 2023

King urges revamp of seasonal-worker visa program

Ahead of Maine's busy summer tourist season, U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is urging federal authorities to make it easier for small businesses to hire foreign workers on temporary visas.

In an April 24 letter to acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su, King writes that delays in the agency's ability to process H2-B visas are a hindrance to small businesses that rely on seasonal or temporary workers.

"Maine’s tourism industry is a significant part of our state’s economy, supporting the jobs of nearly 145,000 Maine people," King wrote. "In order to meet the demand of the millions of visitors to our state each year, Maine businesses need H-2B workers to supplement their local workforce."

"Without their help, many hotels and restaurants in the state would be unable to open or would have to curtail their operations, hurting local communities and Maine workers employed by these businesses," the letter continued. "Given the current tight labor market and record low unemployment, I am committed to ensuring that the H-2B program works efficiently for Maine small businesses so they do not continue to suffer from a lack of workers, and reforming the Foreign Labor Certification process is a good place to start."

Given the series of concerns, King said he was writing to ask how the Department of Labor plans to reform and speed up the review and approval of Foreign Labor Certifications to ensure that all small businesses are able to have their H-2B applications processed in a timely and efficient manner.

King's letter follows a bipartisan effort that he led urging the Biden administration to reconsider plans that would more than double the fees businesses pay for H-2A and H-2B non-immigrant work visas.

'Step in right direction'

Nate Cloutier, government affairs director at HospitalityMaine, described King's call to revamp the temporary visa program as "a step in the right direction" for an industry still coping with staffing challenges.

"The workforce shortage is one of the biggest threats to a successful season for many of our members’ businesses," Cloutier said. "We’re hearing that even if a business applies early with all its ducks in a row, the current process keeps them from receiving enough employees during peak times. We agree with Sen. King that our industry and the state’s economy rely on the success of this program."

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