Federal government to expand H-2B visa availability

In a move to address increased seasonal demand across various industries and curb irregular migration, the U.S. federal government is set to offer nearly double the number of H-2B temporary worker visas for the 2024 Fiscal Year compared to the current year. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Labor, announced a proposed regulation that would make an additional 64,716 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas available, supplementing the Congress-mandated annual quota of 66,000.

The primary objective behind this expansion is to meet the rising demand for seasonal labor while simultaneously addressing concerns related to irregular migration, as outlined by the Department of Homeland Security.

Key points regarding the H-2B visa expansion include:

1. The proposed regulation will bring the total number of available H-2B visas to 130,716 for the 2024 Fiscal Year.

2. Among the additional visas, 20,000 will be allocated to specific countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti.

3. Approximately 45,000 supplemental visas will be provided to temporary workers who have been granted H-2B visas in the past three fiscal years.

The H-2B program enables U.S. employers to hire non-citizens for nonagricultural work that is seasonal or temporary in nature. To participate, businesses must first demonstrate to the Labor Department that there is an insufficient number of qualified U.S. workers available for their staffing needs. Moreover, they must show that employing H-2B workers would not adversely impact wages or working conditions for domestic workers in similar positions.

Despite the increase in available visas, the demand for H-2B visas consistently surpasses the allocated quota, a fact highlighted by the American Hotel and Lodging Association. 

“The H-2B Workforce Coalition, which AHLA co-chairs, worked hard to convince the Biden Administration to offer this considerable expansion, which nearly doubles the yearly allocation of H-2B visas,” AHLA President & CEO Chip Rogers said . “These extra visas will be crucial to helping hotels and resorts in remote vacation destinations fill seasonal roles, and we thank Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas for making them available. But we still need help from Congress to get hoteliers across the country all the employees they need. That includes establishing an H-2B returning worker exemption, passing the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, and passing the H-2 Improvements to Relieve Employers (HIRE) Act.”

The HIRE Act, introduced in July by Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) along with several bipartisan cosponsors, would extend the time an H-2B worker could stay in the U.S., and would streamline the process for a returning worker to renew their visa. 

The bill is supported by many business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which said the legislation “will diminish the onerous compliance burdens for employers desperately seeking the workers they need.” 

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