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Gov. Sununu tells federal officials NH businesses need more foreign worker visas

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

April 12. 2018 8:02PM
Gov. Chris Sununu 



CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu has told federal officials that New Hampshire businesses need more visas for foreign workers to fill seasonable jobs.

“This is having an adverse economic impact on New Hampshire and must be addressed,” he wrote in a letter to the secretaries of Homeland Security and Labor.

“With the recent change to a visa lottery system, many businesses will be unable to secure the seasonal workforce that they need, forcing them to take such measures as to turn away contracts and agreements totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue,” Sununu wrote in his letter, dated Wednesday.

A congressional budget deal gave those secretaries the discretion to allow more people from other countries to work at seasonal jobs in the United States.

The governor’s office couldn’t say how many such visas were sought by and granted to New Hampshire businesses.

New Hampshire has received fewer than 1,000 foreign workers a year through the H-2B program based on required job postings, according to state Department of Employment Security.

Employers must advertise locally for such seasonal jobs prior to giving the job to a foreign worker. There were 477 jobs advertised in 2017 and 683 in 2018 for H-2B eligible jobs, such as landscaping, according to Employment Security.

The job orders are higher than the actual number of visas approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, according to Employment Security Commissioner George Copadis.

Bob Diodati, vice president/general manager at Wentworth by the Sea Country Club in Rye, was worried for his business.

He said he applied for eight H-2B visas this year, two more than in 2017, “because of the tight local labor market.”

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, requests were made for 47,000 foreign workers for the second half of the 2018 fiscal year, which runs from April 1 through Sept. 30. Each half had a cap of 33,000.

In the past, visas were awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. This year, officials collected all the applications submitted during the first five business days and held a lottery.

“That didn’t seem fair,” Diodati said.

Diodati got approval for all eight workers from Mexico who can work at his golf course until November, supplementing local residents hired.

“If we didn’t get them, we were going to have problems with our business,” Diodati said. “We would not have been able to have the golf course open on time.”

Sununu wrote that Granite State companies “have expressed their concerns with the changes to the H-2B visa program but nevertheless have felt their concerns for their employees and businesses have been ignored.”


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