A new analysis of the H-2B visa program data by the Center for Immigration Studies shows the locations where jobs have been offered to guestworkers, pay rates, and numbers of unemployed and available U.S. workers, with a particular focus on less-educated U.S. workers. These jobs are supposed to be for seasonal or temporary non-agricultural work, and the visas are issued for up to three years at a time. The three interactive maps below show that U.S. companies are hiring H-2B guest workers in large numbers for jobs even in areas of high unemployment and with low labor force participation.
Some companies use the program to hire guest workers as landscapers, lifeguards, carnival workers, factory workers, cooks, maids, and fishery workers. But others were approved to bring in engineers, tax preparers, soccer coaches, and occupational therapists – jobs that clearly are not unskilled and not so exotic that no Americans can be found to fill them. These cases suggest that the level of scrutiny for visa approval is inadequate and that employers may be using the program as a way around the rules of other guestworker programs.
The Trump administration is under pressure from some members of Congress to dramatically expand the number of workers allowed to enter. North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis is so determined to secure the entry of more H-2B workers that he is holding up the confirmation of the man chosen to lead USCIS, the agency that approves employer requests for guest workers, until DHS announces an increase in visas.
More than 90 percent of the H-2B workers come from five countries: Mexico, Jamaica, Guatemala, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
DHS has submitted its proposed increase to the Office of Management and Budget for review, and an announcement of the new total of H-2B visas allowed is expected any day.
Further Reading on the H-2B Program
Map 1: Total 2016 Certified H-2B Workers by State
Map 1 shows the extent to which employers are hiring H-2B workers in individual states. The top 10 states for H-2B hiring are (in order): Texas, Florida, Colorado, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, and South Carolina. Fifteen percent of all H-2B workers approved are certified for jobs in Texas (18,000 workers out of 119,000 approved in 2016). Not all of these workers end up coming; in 2016, the State Department issued 84,600 H-2B visas.
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Map 2: Number of 2016 Certified H-2B Workers by Location of Worksite
Map 2 shows the specific city or towns in which the H-2B jobs were authorized. The top individual locations with the most H-2B workers are in Alaska. But jurisdictions with high numbers are found throughout the country: Phoenix, Ariz.; in the resort island of MacKinac, Mich.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and on the exclusive island of Nantucket, Mass.
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Map 3: H-2B Employer Highlights
Corporate locations of employers of large numbers of H-2B workers and high wage H-2B workers
Map 3 shows the corporate locations of employers who were approved for 150 H-2B workers or more and the location of the H-2B jobs paying $25 an hour or more. Silver Bay Seafoods in Sitka, Alaska, is the employer approved for the most H-2B workers, with 971 guestworkers certified. The Mississippi employer Faith Forestry Service comes in second with 704 H-2B workers approved. AJA Video Systems had the highest paid H-2B worker, at a rate of $68.45/hr for a job with no education requirements.
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2016 Employers with More than 149 Certified H-2B Workers
2016 Employers with Certified
H-2B Workers with Wages Over $24.99/hour
Data and Methods
In Map 1, the 2016 employment data was provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In Map 1, the 2017 employment data was created using the public-use file of the Current Population Survey for the first quarter of 2017. Labor force participation measures the share of the age group working or looking for work.