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Shorthanded Landscapers

Delays in processing visa applications at a U.S. Department of Labor office in Atlanta and other bottlenecks have left some local companies shorthanded.

In New Jersey, glitches in a government visa program has delayed the arrival of some immigrants and stopped other from entering the country, leaving landscapers in the area in a hurry to find workers.

The workers, mostly from Mexico, come north under the H-2B visa program, which allows U.S. firms to bring foreign labor into the county to do up to 10 months of seasonal work at wages of around $8 or more an hour.

Ed McKenna, owner of Saddle River-based Gardens By Design, said just three of the nine Mexican workers he usually brings into the country made it this year.

He said he now has 10 workers instead of his regular roster of 17 at this time of year. The shortfall prompted him to buy a new mechanical digger to help get the work done with fewer hands.

"I'm losing work," he said, noting that customers go elsewhere because he can't do their jobs quick enough.

Some landscapers say they will get no relief from the immigration bill stalled in Congress even if it passes, because it doesn't increase the kind of seasonal work visas they need.

Employers seeking to hire H-2B seasonal immigrant workers must first show that no local workers want the job. Once that's been verified by the Labor Department, an employer can apply to U.S. immigration authorities for approval to bring named workers into the country. If the application is approved, the U.S. consulate in their home country issues a visa.< But several factors delayed the process this year. The U.S. Department of Labor said it cut the number of offices handling the visa application from six to two this year. The department said the processing delays in Atlanta were due in part to the growing complexity of the application paperwork and the fact that many applications arrived at the office late.

In addition, the number of applications grew significantly this year, the department said. Last year, the U.S. issues 122,500 H-2B visas, compared with 87,500 in 2005.

Source: North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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June 18, 2019, 8:43 am PDT

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