Local leaders stress importance of foreign workers visa program

Grand Strand restaurants and hotels rely on foreign workers to fill temporary jobs during the peak tourism season, but the program that lets area businesses do this could be in jeopardy.

The H-2B visa program lets foreigners apply for jobs in the United States that employers cannot fill with American workers.

But in recent months, it has faced a slew of delays and financial regulations which could eventually lead to the program being phased out entirely.

On Wednesday, 7th Congressional District Representative Tom Rice led a subcommittee hearing in Washington, addressing the challenges the H-2B visa program has recently faced.

One challenge is a setback after the departments of Labor and Homeland Security stopped processing the H-2B applications for a month, creating a backlog.

Plus, there was a 30% increase in how much the foreign workers get paid.

Wednesday's hearing was also an opportunity for business leaders across the country to testify in favor of the program.

Brad Dean, President of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, flew to Washington to stress how important this visa program is to this area.

"We do not have enough American workers to fill our temporary employment needs. The H-2B visa program, which supplies approved temporary workers at a fair wage is essential to our economic success," Dean said.

Dean adds these additional workers are crucial to the Myrtle Beach area because more than 50% of the Myrtle Beach area's business comes during the summer months.

Dean wants to see the federal government simplify the entire process because it's too expensive and time consuming.

Myrtle Beach has been using the H-2B visa program for nearly a decade.