Worker Visa Shortage Impacting Area Businesses

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With South Dakota’s low unemployment rate, many businesses are struggling to find enough employees. 

One resource seasonal employers especially have relied on is the H2B Visa program, which allows businesses to hire foreign workers for short-term jobs. 

However that program now faces a severe pinch.

Even though we’re months away from seeing the season’s first flowers outside, area landscapers are gearing up for their busy season inside. 

“Anybody who applies here we’ll interview,” Landscape Garden Centers President Erik Helland said. 

Landscape Garden Centers has been struggling to find enough seasonal workers. Last year, it hoped to hire 20 foreign workers through the H2B Visa program. Hope is the key word. 

“We only got three, and we were behind on work. We didn’t finish work. We have a lot of work that needs to get done in 2019,” Helland said. 

This year, the chances aren’t looking too good either. 

“When the program went up on the first of January, it actually shut down because so many people were applying,”  H-Visa Solutions President John Bedell said.

This year 92,000 employers have applied for 33,000 work visas. Over the past few years, the need has grown, but the government has not increased the number of visas.

“We’re going to see a severe shortage if they don’t come up with some kind of long-term plan that is going to fix the visa program,” Bedell said.

In addition to landscapers, many construction companies and tourism-related businesses are also struggling with the shortage. 

“It drives one of our big economic factors because it deals with all of our tourism,” Bedell said.

Industries that say they need the green light for more foreign workers to make more green.

“Sales and revenue across the board just go backwards,” Helland said. 

Before applying for worker visas, employers have to advertise the positions to people in the U.S. 

Foreign workers also cannot have a criminal past and need to get fingerprinted and background checks done with Homeland Security. 

The workers also can’t be with a company for more than nine months. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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