US adds 35,000 H-2B visas to address labor shortage

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced on Thursday, 5 March, it will release 35,000 additional H-2B visas over two phases for the second half of the 2020 fiscal year.

The number is down slightly from the 45,000 H-2B visas The Wall Street Journal reported last week would be issued to address widespread labor shortages in the United States.

“This year’s supplemental allocation was determined after extensive consultation with stakeholders – including members of Congress and the Department of Labor – and is intended to strike a careful balance that benefits American businesses and American workers,” the department said in a statement.

With that increase, however, DHS will also step up measures to prevent fraud and abuse in the program that allows companies, such as seafood processors, to fill temporary but essential positions with migrant workers.

Last week, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee that the agency would be placing greater emphasis on fighting fraud and abuse as it considered an increase in the number of visas allowed.

Among the measures DHS will take to fight abuses in the system will be to require the start date on the visa petition to match the start date for the company’s need. DHS will also coordinate with Department of Labor officials to conduct more site visits.

Visas also will likely be limited to those who follow U.S. immigration laws “in good faith,” DHS said in the statement.

The new visas will be distributed in two phases. The first 20,000 will be released on 1 April. The remainder of the visas will be released on 15 May.

In addition, Homeland Security set aside 10,000 of the visas for countries that are committed to U.S. border security concerns. Those visas will be earmarked for Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

The federal government had established a cap of 66,000 visas annually, with those permits split evenly between the first half and second half of the federal fiscal year, which starts on 1 October.

Photo courtesy of Stockfour/Shutterstock


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