The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) have released 30,000 additional H-2B visas for the second half of FY 2019.
The extra permits are available only to American businesses likely to suffer permanent and severe financial harm if they are unable to “employ all of the H-2B workers that they request on their Form I-129 petition.”
The recently added visas are allocated for current H-2B holders and returning workers who were granted status in FY 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The annual cap for H-2B visas is 66,000, of which 33,000 are for spring/summer and 33,000 for fall/winter. Congress may grant up to 69,000 additional visas if approved by the administration.
The additional H-2B visas are a major relief for seasonal industries such as landscaping, fishing, hotels, and restaurants. The increased certainty of labor demands being met has allowed American businesses to plan more effectively. But, as some U.S. employers have pointed out, the need for properly skilled labor still far exceeds the number of available visas.
U.S. work visas programs have become central to the polarizing immigration debate in Congress. The H-2B visa expansion is an encouraging sign, showing that the administration recognizes the significant difficulty U.S. employers face in their effort to recruit qualified temporary American workers.