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Monday, April 22nd, 2024

Senate SEASONAL Act introduced to allow governors flexibility with H2-B nonimmigrant visas

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As the United States reckons with its seasonal labor needs and political infighting over immigration, a new bipartisan effort known as the SEASONAL Act seeks to allow governors the ability to push supplemental H-2B visas beyond the national cap of 66,000.

The SEASONAL Act, or the State Executive Authority for Seasonal Occupations Needing Additional Labor Act, was a product of U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Pete Ricketts (R-NE) and John Hickenlooper (D-CO), along with cosponsor U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). It’s a workaround, giving governors the option to petition the federal government to push past the seasonal worker visa caps. It would, however, set another cap in the process: exemptions like this would only be possible for states with an unemployment rate at or below 3.5 percent for least nine of the 12 months prior to their request.

“Federal inaction shouldn’t prevent state leaders from doing everything they can to strengthen their economies,” Thune said. “Labor needs plague nearly every sector in South Dakota, which is why I’m proud to introduce this legislation that would empower states to help alleviate workforce shortages while reinforcing protections for South Dakota workers.”

Under the legislation, governors would be able to dole out visas through a lottery system. However, they would also have the ability to request visas only be made available for certain Department of Labor (DOL) Standard Occupational Classification Groups or employers in specific Economic Development Districts.

This program would, however, sunset after four years unless reauthorized, and state legislatures would be free to impose their own limitations on governors regarding the program.

“Colorado companies rely on H-2B workers. But in recent years, our businesses are facing widespread worker shortages because available visas haven’t kept up with demand,” Hickenlooper said. “Our bill gives states more flexibility to advocate for the workers they need.”