Measure targets seasonal worker shortage

New Hampshire’s two United States senators have signed on as co-sponsors of legislation aimed at extending the exemption for documented seasonal workers to meet the need of businesses in the Granite State and elsewhere.

Under the measure being co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu will extend the exemption for documented seasonal workers, but their number will not count against the national H-2B visa cap, which is currently set at 66,000 workers.

Employers are only allowed to use H-2B visas for jobs for which the Department of Labor has certified that U.S. workers are not available.

“New Hampshire’s economy relies to a great extent on an influx of seasonal workers in some of our high tourism areas, as well as our logging community up north. It is important that these New Hampshire businesses have the manpower they need to continue to provide outstanding service and products for residents and visitors alike,” said Gregg, adding that the legislation “is targeted at alleviating current shortages and constraints felt by these New Hampshire businesses, and allowing them to continue operating throughout the year”

According to Sununu, “the availability of legal, temporary workers to perform jobs that otherwise would go unfilled is critical to New Hampshire’s economy. The state’s tourism and hospitality sectors – along with other seasonal businesses – continue to need the certainty of knowing that an adequate supply of H-2B visas will be available for workers to perform essential jobs that local residents do not pursue.”

In years past, many businesses in New Hampshire, and across the country, have been unable to obtain temporary, documented seasonal foreign workers through the H-2B program. For the second year in a row, the H-2B cap of 66,000 was reached in just a few months into the 2006 fiscal year. Because companies are not allowed to apply for workers more than 120 days before they are needed, many businesses were unable to apply for visas before the cap was reached.

The senators said they will push including the measure in the broad immigration reform bill expected to come before the Senate in the coming weeks. – JEFF FEINGOLD

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