Colorado is seeing a visa shortage for seasonal workers due to lottery system

Aldo Svaldi
The Denver Post
Juan Herrera, left, and Gonzalo Lamen of Singing Hill Landscape work on a park at the Riverdale Dunes community on March 7, 2018 in Commerce City, Colo. Landscapers rely heavily on the H-2B visa program for peak season help. There were 33,000 visas offered and 100,000 applications. Unlike in prior years, the DOL went to a lottery system. A majority of landscapers won't get their workers unless Congress passes a fix. Colorado is one of the heaviest users of the program given its seasonal climate. (John Leyba/The Denver Post via AP)
AP | The Denver Post

DENVER — Colorado companies in landscaping, construction, hospitality and tourism are getting unwelcome notices that the federal government has denied their visa applications to bring in foreign workers to meet the summer rush.

“We don’t know how we will get the workers,” said Jake Leman, construction division manager at Singing Hills Landscaping, one of the firms rejected. “If we could bring back the guys we had from last year, we would be able to survive and fulfill all of our contracts.”

The Aurora company applied for 40 slots under the H-2B visa program to bring workers from Mexico to handle the surge in business during the warmer months, a request made every year after local hiring efforts fail.

“It is dire,” said Brad Ahl, who helps firms apply for visas as president of Windsor-based Labor Solutions Inc. Historically low unemployment rates and worsening labor shortages across a growing number of industries and states are pushing more employers to seek help outside U.S. borders.

‘Demand for visas’

Support Local Journalism

But the cap of 66,000 visas hasn’t changed since the 1990s, and the climate around immigration and the use of foreign workers is politically charged.

“The biggest thing that makes this year different is the sheer demand for visas,” said John McMahon, executive director of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado.

The H-2B program allows employers to bring in foreign workers temporarily to take non-farm jobs that can’t be filled locally. Companies must show that they have the means to pay their workers and that the positions pay a competitive wage for such work.

It is divided into a summer season, April-September, and a winter season, October-March. Each season receives 33,000 visas. Normally, requests are filled on a first-come, first-served basis for applicants who meet stringent certification requirements.

 For the full story, see The Denver Post’s article, here.

Support Local Journalism