At Last, 30,000 More Seasonal Worker Visas

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By: Craig Regelbrugge & Laurie Flanagan

On May 8, the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor (DOL) finally released a rule that established a process for employers to apply for 30,000 more H-2B visas for fiscal 2019. These visas are limited to returning workers who received H-2B visas in one or more of the previous three fiscal years (2016, 2017 or 2018).

Under the rule, employers with a valid DOL temporary labor certification (TLC) for a start date of April 1 can apply directly to DHS without re-advertising or going back through the DOL process, provided that their petitions are submitted to DHS before the expiration of their labor certification on May 15. Employers also need to sign an attestation form that states that without H-2B workers, their businesses will suffer “irreparable harm,” defined as permanent and severe financial loss.

Though still likely to fall short of demand, these additional visas do not come a moment too soon, as employers with seasonal labor needs are struggling mightily. For months, data shows that U.S. employers have had more job openings than job seekers and estimate that there are 1.43 million more openings than there have been hires.

Looking ahead to next year, the House Appropriations Committee passed its version of the Fiscal 2020 Department of Labor Appropriations bill on May 8. During the debate, the committee adopted by voice vote an amendment offered by Dr. Andy Harris (R-MD) that would require H-2B visas to be allocated quarterly and on a proportional basis. The amendment does not address the H-2B cap, which would need to be addressed in a Department of Homeland Security funding bill.

The DOL funding bill has a long way to go before it could become law. The full House needs to vote on the bill and the Senate has yet to take up its own version of the measure. If and when both chambers pass their own bills, they will need to be reconciled, voted on again and sent to the President for his signature. Plus, the entire appropriations process is always fraught with uncertainty. But it is significant that the House Appropriations Committee once again voted for an improvement to the H-2B program.

The House plans to take up the DHS funding bill next month. We continue to work with our Congressional champions to explore options for cap relief in that funding bill and other legislation. We are also working with various Senate offices. The Senate has not yet scheduled action on any fiscal 2020 funding bills.

AmericanHort will continue to fight for H-2B cap relief and will keep you updated on our efforts. In the meantime, we wish all of our members’ success in applying for the newly released H-2B visas. Please let us know how you fare in this process.

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