Additional 22,000 seasonal guest workers will be admitted over the annual cap
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced April 20 that an additional 22,000 H-2B visas will be available for employers seeking seasonal foreign guest workers this summer.
Six thousand of the visas will be reserved for workers from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, in support of President Joe Biden’s efforts to address an unauthorized migration surge from the Northern Triangle countries in Central America.
The H-2B guest worker program, capped annually at 66,000 visas split evenly between the fall/winter and spring/summer seasons, is relied upon by the landscaping, hospitality, seafood and construction industries, among others.
The fiscal year 2021 H-2B cap was reached in February when the Department of Labor (DOL) received applications for a total of 98,000 workers vying for one of the coveted 33,000 spring/summer slots. Since then, employers and a bipartisan group of lawmakers have been calling on the Biden administration to extend additional seasonal visas for the current fiscal year ending in October.
This marks the fifth year in a row that DHS has released additional H-2B visas in response to pressure from seasonal employers and lawmakers. The Trump administration released an extra 15,000 visas in both 2017 and 2018, 30,000 additional visas in 2019, and 35,000 visas in 2020 before the pandemic upended business operations.
DHS is expected to publish a temporary final rule setting forth filing procedures for the additional visas. Petitioners are expected to be required to submit Form I-129, a valid temporary labor certification approved by the DOL and an attestation that their business is at risk of irreparable harm without the additional workers.
As with prior increases, employers seeking H-2B workers must first test the U.S. labor market and certify in their petitions that there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing and available for the offered positions, and that employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
Employers will also be able to hire workers who are already present in the United States in H-2B status without waiting for approval of the new petition.
Source: SHRM, Roy Maurer, April 22, 2021