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US boosts seasonal worker visas halfway through summer season

Monday, July 17, 2017

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Washington, United States (AFP) — The Trump administration announced Monday an increase in seasonal worker visas that US resorts depend on, but the move halfway through the summer is unlikely to alleviate a nationwide shortage.

Holiday vacation destinations around the United States -- including President Donald Trump's own Mar-a-Lago country club in Palm Beach, Florida -- depend on tens of thousands of temporary workers in the summer and winter, many of them young people from eastern Europe and Asia.

Some 66,000 "H-2B" visas were allocated for this summer, and resorts from Maine to Florida along the US east coast have complained they don't have enough.

On Monday the Department of Homeland Security said it would allow another 15,000 workers this fiscal year, but only for businesses "likely to suffer irreparable harm" without them.

Given the 30-60 day processing time, the move is unlikely to help many, tourism industry officials said.

DHS blamed the lateness of the move on Congress's slow action to approve a fiscal 2017 budget, finalised only in May.

But they said the increase was part of Trump's "America First" effort to strengthen US industry.
In June seven senators representing states with important summer vacation destinations asked DHS to double the number of H-2B visas.

Resorts, hotels, restaurants and other service-sector businesses say they depend on the foreign workers because it is harder to recruit young Americans for the jobs paying $10-$15 an hour for up to four months in the summer.

Josh Bass, president of the Currituck Chamber of Commerce, which covers the northern section of North Carolina's popular Outer Banks Atlantic seashore, said the shortage of H-2B visas had made things for difficult for local businesses, and caused at least one to shut down.

The increase is positive, he said, but "it's probably too late for this summer."

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