Biden to raise number of guest worker visas, with more for Haiti, Central America

Biden to raise number of guest worker visas, with more for Haiti, Central America
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees watch from a window as activists hold the "Shutdown ICE" rally in Washington, U.S., July 16, 2019.

NEW YORK, Dec 20 (2021) - The United States will make 20,000 additional visas available for seasonal, non-agricultural guest workers through March 31, including 6,500 visas for workers from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti, in an effort to encourage legal migration, a U.S. official told Reuters.

The extra H-2B visas would be in addition to the annual allotment of 66,000 visas for the fiscal year, the official said, adding an announcement was set to be made Monday.

The expansion of the H-2B visa program used to employ landscapers, housekeepers, hotel employees and construction and carnival workers, among others, comes as the U.S. labour market continues to face shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The White House has touted efforts to create legal pathways for migrants to come to the United States as record numbers of migrants have been arrested at the southern border under Biden.

Still, even if all 6,500 visas are used, it represents just a fraction of migrants trying to reach the United States. U.S. Border Patrol made more than 700,000 arrests of migrants from those four countries in fiscal 2021.

The additional 20,000 visas are a slight drop from the 22,000 made available for the second half of fiscal 2021.

The administration of U.S President Joe Biden set aside 6,000 H-2B visas for the three Central American countries during the second half of fiscal 2021, which ended Sept. 30, but fell short of filling all of those slots.

The addition of Haiti follows Biden's decision to deport some Haitians after thousands arrived in southern Texas in September. The country has faced political instability and violence following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July as well as natural disasters.