The Department of Homeland Security recently released 22,000 additional visas for the H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker Program. The visas will be granted for the second half of the federal fiscal year, with 6,000 being reserved to workers hailing from Northern Triangle Countries (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras). H-2B visas are used by employers in need of seasonal guest workers. Usually, only 66,000 are granted per year, with half granted in the first half of the fiscal year and the second half being released during the second half of the fiscal year. This is good news for companies in various sectors that cannot meet their respective goals without the incorporation of foreign workers into their teams.
Which Industries Will Benefit From Additional H-2B Visas?
Around 40% of all H-2B visas are granted to people working in the landscaping and grounds keeping sectors, as reported by the National Immigration Forum. Another industry that relies heavily on the H-2B Visa is that of forestry, followed by the recreation, hotel housekeeping, meat/fish processing, and restaurant industries. The top five states in terms of reliance on this visa are Virginia, Texas, Colorado, Florida and Georgia. In addition to Mexico, other countries from which H-2B visa workers hail include the Philippines, England, Guatemala and Jamaica. Companies relying on this visa need to submit a temporary labor certification and complete a special petition. They also need to show evidence that the visa is being requested for one of three specific reasons: seasonal need, peak-load need, or intermittent need.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act Of 2021
The increased number of new visas has been made available by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The act, which was passed as law in December 2020, includes a section that grants the DHS the discretionary right to release 64,176 H-2B visas when the need for them can be evidenced. Many more industries than those mentioned above have already expressed their gratitude for the additional visas. The horse racing industry, for instance, relies heavily on the H-2B program to fill various posts. Another industry that relies heavily on guest workers recruited under this program is the crab industry in states like Maryland.
Are More H-2B Visas Required?
Despite the boost in visa numbers, some industries feel that the additional visas may not be enough. In Maryland, for instance, Rep. Andy Harris has stated that local seasonal businesses may require more temporary foreign workers to meet seasonal demands, especially as they work to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic. Some politicians are also asking the federal government to stop using a lottery system to allocate visas, since this can create uncertainty for specific industries.
The Department of Homeland Security’s decision to add 22,000 visas for the H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker program has been welcomed by many industries. These include the landscaping, forestry, and amusement/recreation industries. Despite the improvement, many politicians are still calling for more visas to be issued to withstand seasonal demands and to help businesses get back on their feet as the nation begins to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic.