H-2B Cap Hit – On February 22, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the H-2B cap for the second half of FY 2019 was reached on February 19. According to USCIS, it used a computer-generated process, or lottery, to determine which of the petitions received on February 19 would be processed under the cap. Petitions received prior to February 19 were not subject to the lottery.
H-2B Advocacy Efforts Continue – On February 15, President Trump signed into law a funding bill that gives DHS the authority, in consultation with the Department of Labor (DOL), to increase the H-2B cap for fiscal 2019 to 135,320 (66,000 base + up to 69,320: the number of H-2B returning worker visas that was issued in FY 2007). This is the same language that was in effect for fiscal 2017 and 2018.
AmericanHort and the H-2B Workforce Coalition continue to advocate for DHS to make those visas immediately available to save the spring season for our members who were shut out of the program due to the cap. Last week, the H-2B Workforce Coalition and seasonal businesses across the country sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen and Labor Secretary Acosta urging them to immediately release the visas allowed under the new law.
We will continue to urge Secretary Nielsen to immediately release the visas, as well as pursue other legislative cap fixes.
Hill Pressures Secretaries – On March 5, a bipartisan letter signed by 27 Senators and 110 Representatives was sent to Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen and Labor Secretary Acosta urging swift action to release up to the almost-70,000 additional visas authorized by Congress.
DOL Proposes Changes to H-2B Processing – On February 26, the DOL proposed changes to its processing of H-2B applications. Under the proposal, all H-2B applications filed on or after July 3, 2019, will be randomly ordered for processing based on the date of filing and the start date of the work requested. Rather than processing petitions via time stamp, the DOL will randomly order all of the H-2B applications received within the first three days of the semi-annual filing period (October 1 or April 1).
The proposal provides for a 30-day comment period. AmericanHort will coordinate comments with the broader H-2B coalition. The DOL plans to issue a final rule prior to July 3