The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced the cap on H-2B visas will be raised by 64,716 additional visas this fiscal year, which is expected to boost seasonal staffing levels in the visitor and hospitality industry, along with seafood processing, landscaping and other sectors.
“The Department of Homeland Security is committed to maintaining strong economic growth and meeting the labor demand in the United States, while strengthening worker protections for U.S. and foreign workers,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas.
“We are using the tools that we have available to bolster the resiliency of our industries and release the maximum number of additional H-2B visas for U.S. businesses to ensure they can plan for their peak season labor needs,” Mayorkas said.
The increase in the number of temporary nonagricultural worker visas is the maximum permitted under the Fiscal Year 2024 Continuing Resolution that was approved in September. Congress already mandates 66,000 H2-B visas each fiscal year.
The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States.
The employment must be of a temporary nature, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, or intermittent need. Employers seeking H-2B workers must take a series of steps to test the U.S. labor market.
They must obtain certification from the Department of Labor that there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to perform the temporary work for which they seek a prospective foreign worker, and that employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
The maximum period of stay in H-2B classification is three years. A person who has held H-2B nonimmigrant status for a total of three years must depart and remain outside of the United States for an uninterrupted period of three months before seeking readmission as an H-2B nonimmigrant.
The H-2B supplemental is expected to include an allocation of 20,000 visas to workers from Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Honduras.
The other additional 44,716 supplemental visas would be available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa, or were otherwise granted H-2B status, during one of the last three fiscal years.
The regulation would allocate these supplemental visas for returning workers between the first half and second half of the fiscal year to account for the need for additional seasonal and other temporary workers over the course of the year, with a portion of the second half allocation reserved to meet the demand for workers during the peak summer season.
The Homeland Security and Labor departments said they have also put in place robust protections for U.S. and foreign workers alike, including by ensuring that employers first seek out and recruit American workers for the jobs to be filled, as the visa program requires, and that foreign workers hired are not exploited by unscrupulous employers.
“Our maximum use of the H-2B visa program also continues to build on our commitment to expand lawful pathways as an alternative to irregular migration, thereby cutting out the ruthless smugglers who prey on the vulnerable,” Mayorkas said.
Most recently, both Homeland Secuirty and Labor departments have proposed regulations to further strengthen worker protections in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs, and the White House-led H-2B Worker Protection Taskforce released a report detailing new actions to be taken by Federal government agencies to strengthen protections for vulnerable H-2B and similarly situated U.S. workers.
The forthcoming temporary final rule implementing this allocation is expected to feature several provisions to protect both U.S. and H-2B workers.
Additional details on H-2B program safeguards, as well as eligibility and filing requirements, will be available in the temporary final rule when published and on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.