Businesses in Bar Harbor, Maine are turning to locals to make up for a shortage of foreign guest workers that normally fill summer jobs in the bustling seaside resort town.
Because the H-2B visa program has already reached its annual quota, Bar Harbor’s hotels, restaurants and shops can’t bring in any more foreign workers for the rest of the busy summer tourist season. Like hundreds of similar coastal resort towns, Bar Harbor has for many years depended on the H-2B visas for temporary workers. The program allows non-agricultural companies to bring in foreign labor if they are unable to find suitable employees domestically.
The annual limit for H-2B visas is set at 66,000, half for the winter season and half for the summer. In the past, workers who had previously come to the U.S. on H-2B visas were given a “returning worker” exemption and not counted against the cap. Congress did not include the returning worker provision in this year’s authorization, but instead gave Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly the power to raise the limit by as many as 70,000 extra visas for the summer.
Several lawmakers are pressuring the Trump administration to authorize more H-2B visas, and DHS is expected to announce a higher cap this month. Independent Maine Sen. Angus King has introduced legislation that would restore the returning worker rule.
In the meantime, Bar Harbor’s businesses are scrambling to find locals to pick up the slack.
If buttercups buzz’d after the bee,
If boats were on land, churches on sea,
If ponies rode men and if grass ate the cows,
And cats should be chased into holes by the mouse,
If the mamas sold their babies
To the gypsies for half a crown;
If summer were spring and the other way round,
Then all the world would be upside down.