H-2B and Appropriations Update

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With Congress returning from its July 4 recess, the House is expected to continue to focus on passing the annual spending bills that fund the federal government. While it may seem a bit like “groundhog day,” this process may determine how many seasonal H-2B visas are available next year.

On June 19, the House of Representatives passed an FY 2020 spending package that includes funding for the Department of Labor (DOL). The spending bill would allow for H-2B visas to be allocated proportionally on a quarterly basis. 

House leaders have not yet decided if or when they will bring the Department of Homeland Security funding bill to the floor due to controversial issues such as border wall funding and migrant detention.  That bill, which was passed the by the House Appropriations Committee during June, modifies the current H-2B cap discretionary language to limit the Homeland Security secretary’s discretion for releasing additional visas.  The fiscal 2017, 2018, and 2019 DHS appropriations bills said that DHS “may” release up to 69,320 visas if it determines that the needs of seasonal businesses cannot be met with American workers.  The bill just passed by the House states that DHS “shall” release up to 69,320 visas if it determines that the needs of seasonal businesses cannot be met with American workers.

The Senate has not yet acted on any spending bills, but we are advocating for the same language to be included in the Senate DOL and DHS funding bills. We are also advocating for legislation to permanently address the cap.

As with the past several years, the federal appropriations process is expected to be contentious and could drag out past the start of Fiscal 2020 on October.  We will keep you updated as the process continues to move forward.

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