H-2 Program Delays Building
Jill Calabro, Ph.D.
Employers relying on the H-2A and H-2B seasonal worker visa programs, beware. Processing delays are building, and the next few months could be rough.
AmericanHort and the H-2B Workforce Coalition, which we co-chair, continue to work with Congress to address processing delays at the Department of Labor (DOL). DOL blames processing delays on information technology system changes, the H-2B provisions in the 2016 omnibus appropriations bill, and an increase in user demand. We do not feel these excuses are legitimate, given that DOL received additional resources through the appropriations process and was relieved of some of its H-2B enforcement authority.
According to H-2B providers, as of early February, 555 companies had pending petitions with DOL. Of these, 50.1% of the applications had not received a Notice of Acceptance (NOA) or Deficiency (NOD) within 7 business days of submittal as is required by DOL regulations. Further, 23.2% had not received an NOA or NOD after 30 days.
Last week, Reps. Keating (D-MA), Benishek (R-MI), and 6 other Members of Congress sent a letter to DOL expressing concerns about the delays. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) also sent a letter to DOL. Rep. Harris (R-MD) is currently circulating a letter to DOL that expresses concerns about the delays and DOL’s apparent disregard for the provisions included in the fiscal 2016 appropriations bill.
We will continue to work with similarly-concerned coalition partners to pressure DOL to meet its regulatory timeframes so that our members that use these vital programs can get their workers for the spring.