Some businesses in eastern Idaho are facing difficulties in getting seasonal workers because of the new visa rules introduced for non-agricultural workers.
The controller for MD Nursery and Landscaping, Mandi Wilkinson, complained that the situation has been challenging to handle. Companies like theirs have been allowed to re-employ foreign workers who have previously worked for them every new year without having to include them among the total number of visas granted. But with the current stricter visa rules, they are no longer allowed to make exemptions for returning workers. They are now required to prove that they have made efforts to hire workers from the US before their applications for new H-2B visas can be granted.
The H-2B visas are issued each year by the Department of Labor in two phases for each year. Each phase has 33,000 seasonal work visas to be issued to applicants.
MD Nursery and Landscaping applied for 62 H-2B visas this year for foreign workers, but all 62 were denied. The company does business in Idaho, Wyoming, Driggs, and Jackson. Employment in the region has fallen to low levels, and it has become challenging to get summer workers.
There are a variety of reasons why getting seasonal workers has become difficult. According to Tim Jones, an immigration worker, one of such reasons is that the demand for foreign workers increased at a time when the unemployment rate in the United States is at a decline, making domestic workers scarce for employment. Again, the majority of people who do seasonal jobs, rather than take up landscaping jobs, got employment in national parks and resorts.
A little glimpse of hope
The scarcity of seasonal workers has made MD Nursery turn to Puerto Rico to get workers. Citizens of Puerto Rico do not need visas to enter the US.
The downside, however, is that as H-2B visa holders need to stay with their sponsors, this is not the case with Puerto Ricans. This makes it possible for them to negotiate higher wages, leaving their current jobs for ones where they have better offerings.
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