The Department of Homeland Security will offer extra visas for temporary seasonal workers, a move that could help the Maine hospitality industry find workers for jobs it is struggling to fill this summer.

The department said it has yet to determine how many visas will be available. Visas will be offered only to seasonal businesses that “would be severely harmed if they do not receive temporary employment relief under the H2B program,” the department said in a statement Wednesday. It expects to begin offering visas in late July.

Steve Hewins, director of the Maine Innkeepers Association said the news is positive, but its impact on Maine is unclear.

“The only thing we don’t know is what this really does mean for Maine,” Hewins said in an interview Wednesday night. Maine businesses are waiting on roughly 2,000 visas to be approved, and those workers are still needed especially during the busy fall season, Hewins said.

“My hope is that they are all going to get processed, but we don’t know that yet,” he added.

The H-2B visas are used for temporary, non-agriculture workers at a number of businesses, especially hotels and resorts in Maine. In other states, they provide a vital workforce for landscaping and fish processing, among other industries.


The government offers 66,000 such visas a year, but that cap was reached in March, leaving many businesses without the workers they expected. Some Maine hotels and restaurants have limited their hours or closed off blocks of rooms because they don’t have enough workers.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was given authority to offer more than 60,000 extra visas this year as part of a government spending bill Congress passed in May. In the statement, the department said Kelly was concerned Congress was “passing the buck” by not designating a specific number of visas and hoped the one-time occurrence was an anomaly.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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