MD Crab-Picking Industry Boosted With More Seasonal Workers


The Department of Homeland Security last Friday said it will nearly double the available number of H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas in Fiscal Year 2024. This will help Maryland seafood processors. Crabs are pictured here. (Jacob Baumgart/Patch)

MARYLAND - Maryland crab-picking houses could be less strained next summer. 

The federal government just released more seasonal foreign worker visas. Eastern Shore processing plants rely on these visas to fill summertime jobs, but they say there haven't been enough visas to hire a full labor force in recent years.

The Department of Homeland Security last Friday announced that it will nearly double the available number of these H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas.

There are a mandatory 66,000 H-2B visas every year. In Fiscal year 2024, there will be an additional 64,716 spread across the country.

These visas are mostly used in the hospitality, tourism, landscaping and seafood processing industries. They are designed for areas where too few U.S. workers are available. The sparsely populated Eastern Shore fits the bill. 

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris is a Republican who represents the Eastern Shore in Maryland's 1st Congressional District. 

Harris in a statement said the visas will offer “much needed help,” Chesapeake Bay Media reported.

“While there is still more work to do, the release of these additional visas is a step in the right direction as we work to find a permanent solution to help our seasonal businesses on the Eastern Shore,” Harris said, according to Chesapeake Bay Media.

The H-2B program requires employers to first hire as many American workers as possible. If they need additional help, they can then get a certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor qualifying them to temporarily hire non-citizens. These jobs cannot hurt the wages and working conditions of similarly employed Americans.

The maximum stay in the U.S. under an H-2B visa is three years. After that, workers must leave the country for three consecutive months before reapplying.

H-2B workers are not immigrants, and they are not allowed to stay in the U.S. permanently with this visa.

“We are using the tools that we have available to bolster the resiliency of our industries and release the maximum number of additional H-2B visas for U.S. businesses to ensure they can plan for their peak season labor needs,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a press release. “We also continue to take steps to strengthen protections for workers and safeguard the integrity of the program from unscrupulous employers who would seek to exploit workers by paying substandard wages and maintaining unsafe work conditions.”

To learn more about how Maryland seafood processing facilities rely on H-2B visas, read Chesapeake Bay Media's story.

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