Maine Sen. Angus King asks Homeland Security not to raise fee for temporary work visas

King: “Think of it as a major tax increase on a whole bunch of small Maine businesses”
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 3:33 PM EDT
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(WMTW) - Maine Independent Senator Angus King wants to stop the federal government from raising the cost of visas for temporary, foreign workers.

King and a bipartisan group of senators have written Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ur Jaddou to drop a plan to more than double the amount employers pay for each visa.

DHS and USCIS are planning to raise the employer cost of applying for an H-2A or H2-B visa from $460 to nearly $1,000 plus a $600 processing fee, a total of nearly $1,700, a 266% spike.

In an interview with WMTW Maine’s Total Coverage on Wednesday, King said, “This is like a tax on small businesses. This is going to be devastating on a restaurant, if they need to hire three of these people, and they’ve got to pay an extra three or four thousand dollars, it comes right out of their bottom line.”

King described the pending fee hike as an excessive burden for those businesses, such as in the hospitality industry, which are already combating a severe worker shortage.

“Everywhere you go in Maine, you see ‘now hiring’ and ‘hiring’ signs and signing bonuses, and again, it’s a problem in the seasonal businesses, where it’s harder to get employees, because you can’t commit to a year-round employment, and that’s particularly where these H2-B’s, particularly in the hospitality industry, make a real difference,” King said. “This is very significant to a small restaurant or inn along the Maine coast or a small blueberry grower who needs a little help for a short period of time to get the crop in.”

Last year, King and Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins successfully pushed for a near doubling of available H2-B visas for non-agricultural workers this year, a cache of 65,000 this fiscal year, which ends September 30, on top of the 66,000 previously authorized.

King said a sliding scale for the employer application fees could be an option.

He said, “At the very least it ought to be scaled based on the size of the business.”

His letter is co-signed by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), James Risch (R-ID), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and John Hickenlooper (D-CO).