DHS Adds 22,000 Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker Visas

In light of increased labor demands, on Tuesday, April 20, DHS announced a supplemental increase of 22,000 visas for the H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker program. Six thousand of these visas will be reserved for nationals of the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The additional visas will be made available in the coming months. The supplemental increase is based on a time-limited statutory authority and does not affect the H-2B program in future fiscal years.

The supplemental increase will require businesses seeking H-2B workers to engage in additional recruitment efforts for U.S. workers. Employers must test the U.S. labor market and certify in their petitions that there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work for which they seek a prospective foreign worker; and that employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

The temporary final rule will allow employers to immediately hire H-2B workers who are already present in the United States without waiting for approval of the new petition.

Business groups and a bipartisan group of lawmakers in states with economies that rely on seasonal guest workers, such as the Maryland and Alaska seafood industries, have been amplifying their calls for the Biden administration to provide supplemental H-2Bs for their states’ employers who weren’t able to secure visas in the earlier disbursements.

The increase in H-2B visas is a noticeable departure from the Biden Administration’s overall pro-labor policy stance. Union leaders are not pleased with DHS’s increase in H-2B visas. North America’s Building Trades Unions, United Food & Commercial Workers, UNITE HERE, and more than a half-dozen other unions, wrote in a joint letter, “with millions of unemployed workers in top H-2B occupations, increasing the cap would undermine efforts to get workers of all status back on their feet.” “It would also expose more H-2B workers to the egregious abuses that pervade the program. Neither of these outcomes is acceptable.”