Alaska Delegation Welcomes Additional H-2B Visas
DHS, DOL Announcement Paves Way for Robust Seasonal Workforce
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young, all R-Alaska, welcomed an announcement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) that a joint temporary final rule will soon be implemented to ensure an additional 20,000 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas will be made available nationwide for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022.
“This announcement recognizes the significance of H-2B visas for Alaska and is vitally important for our state’s seafood industry. Despite their dogged efforts to find local seasonal workers – which must always be the preference – Alaska employers, particularly in seafood processing, often struggle to find enough workers to keep their operations running. These additional visas, which will be issued in the first half of the Fiscal Year for the first time ever, will help our seafood industry ensure a robust labor pool as we head into the 2022 season,” said Senator Murkowski. “I made it a priority early on with this administration to elevate this issue—not only for a need to raise the cap, but for a long-term solution. I thank the administration for making this a priority and will push the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security to issue needed visas in a timely manner.”
"A perpetually challenging issue for our seafood industry is ensuring sufficient seafood workers so that when our great Alaska fishermen harvest their world-class product they can get it to market. I appreciate the focus on this issue, and the commitment to solutions for Alaskan fishermen who are going out to sea early in the new year and rely on this program,” said Senator Sullivan.
“It is vital that our state’s ongoing economic recovery is not further threatened by labor shortages. Access to sufficient nonimmigrant seasonal H-2B visas is essential for Alaska’s seafood processing industry. Filling these jobs with Alaskans continues to be my goal, but a lack of workers would have catastrophic impacts for fishermen, processors, and the fishing communities that rely on this sector being strong. The Alaskan seafood industry is a critical piece of our nation’s food supply and security. Over the last few months, I have been working on a solution to the seafood processing labor shortage, including working closely with Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas to find a fix for this critical sector,” said Congressman Young. “Today, I am very pleased to share that DHS is making thousands more H-2B visas available, which will greatly benefit Alaska’s economy and employers in the coming year. This is a tremendous victory for our state, and our Delegation’s united front has once again produced an important win for Alaska. Our work will continue as we look to find a long-term solution for labor needs in the seafood processing sector. I want to sincerely thank Secretary Mayorkas for working with me and our Senators on behalf of our state’s businesses. As always, I will continue working with anyone, regardless of party, on policies that put Alaska first.”
H-2B visas allow domestic employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services if American workers are not available, after completing a rigorous application and certification process. These visas are critical to the survival of seafood businesses, many of which are family-owned operations that go back multiple generations. The Alaska Delegation has been active on the H-2B issue, working hard each year to ensure that an adequate number of H-2B visas are made available, and that they are issued to Alaskan employers with sufficient advance for them to prepare for the season ahead. Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young have maintained direct contact with DHS Secretary Mayorkas, working collaboratively to find a solution.