Biden administration announces additional H-2B visas

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's headquarters.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced Monday, 12 December, that additional H-2B visas will be available for American companies in need of temporary labor over the next nine months.

The U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have jointly issued a temporary final rule that will allow nonagricultural employers to apply for 64,716 additional visas, which have been divvied up into four pools. According to a DHS news release, it’s the first time those two federal agencies have taken such a step.

“The department is making supplemental H-2B visas available earlier than ever, ensuring that American businesses can plan for their peak season labor needs,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement. “At a time of record job growth, these visas will also provide a safe and lawful pathway to the United States for noncitizens prepared to take jobs that are not filled by American workers.”

The federal government approved 66,000 visas for the fiscal year, with that allotment divided equally for each half of the fiscal year. The first half cap was reached on 12 September, 2022.

With the new rule, the federal government is now offering 18,216 visas set aside for returning workers. Businesses seeking those visas must have their employees start before 31 March, 2023.

Another new pool contains 20,000 visas for companies seeking workers from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Haiti. Those visas will be available for the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends on 30 September, 2023. Businesses needing workers through 31 March, 2023, can file immediately, while those seeking workers for the second half of the year must wait at least 15 days after the 33,000 visa cap for that period is exhausted.

The federal government will make 16,500 visas available for returning workers from any country whose employers need them to start between 1 April, 2023, and 14 May, 2023. There will also be 10,000 visas available effective after 15 May, 2023.

Under the program, businesses seeking to hire H-2B workers through the supplemental program must demonstrate proof of irreparable harm if they do not get the visas. The companies must also show proof that there are not enough qualified American workers to meet their needs.

Seafood processors are a leading employer of H-2B workers as the businesses are seasonal in nature and typically in remote locations where workers are hard to find for temporary positions. Those businesses compete with other seasonal businesses, such as landscapers and resorts, to secure the visas.

The federal government initially announced in October 2022 that the additional visas would become available this fiscal year. And while Maryland crab processors welcomed the news, they also told The Washington Post that same month that a longer-term solution 66,000 annual visa cap was necessary for their businesses to survive.  

Photo courtesy of Sundry Photography/Shutterstock


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