An additional 30,000 seasonal guestworker visas will be available to U.S. employers this year.
The Department of Homeland Security has agreed to allow the H-2B visas to employers in seasonal businesses such as landscaping and amusements, but only for “returning workers” who previously came to the U.S. on the visas, the agency said March 29. More details will be published in the Federal Register.
“The Secretary continues to urge lawmakers to pursue a long-term legislative fix that both meets employers’ temporary needs while fulfilling the President’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order to spur higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States and to protect their economic interests,” DHS spokeswoman Andrea Palermo said. Congress is in the best position to determine needs, and therefore should work out modified visa numbers and their terms, she said.
Rather than increase H-2B visa numbers itself, Congress gave the DHS authority to boost the visa numbers in legislation funding the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2019.
Visa Numbers Doubled
The 30,000 visas allowed by the agency is double the number allowed in the past two years when the DHS was handed similar authority by lawmakers. Other than the returning worker restriction, it’s not clear what employers may have to demonstrate to be eligible for the additional visas.
In prior years, the DHS required employers to demonstrate that they would face severe economic harm if they didn’t have access to foreign labor.
“I’m glad the administration heeded my warning about the real threats to Granite State seasonal businesses who could face a serious shortfall in their workforce unless more visas are made available,” Sen.
Demand for H-2B visas has been skyrocketing in recent years, leading to a lottery akin to that held for H-1B skilled guestworker visas. So many employers sought the visas this year that they crashed the Labor Department’s electronic filing system.
Critics of the visa program say it’s being used as a source of cheap labor.