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DHS Offers Additional 65,000 H-2B Visas in Fiscal Year 2023

October 13, 2022 by Dan McCue
DHS Offers Additional 65,000 H-2B Visas in Fiscal Year 2023
(Department of Homeland Security)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security is providing employers with an additional 64,716 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for fiscal year 2023 in a bid to address the need for seasonal workers and reduce irregular migration.

The increase, which was announced after DHS consulted with the U.S. Department of Labor, comes on top of the 66,000 H-2B visas that are normally available each fiscal year.

At the same time, DHS and DOL are working together to institute robust protections for U.S. and foreign workers alike, including by ensuring that employers first seek out and recruit American workers for the jobs to be filled, as the visa program requires, and that foreign workers hired are not exploited by unscrupulous employers.

To strengthen these efforts, DHS and DOL also announced the creation of a new White House-convened Worker Protection Task Force.

“The Department of Homeland Security is moving with unprecedented speed to meet the needs of American businesses,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas in a written statement. 

“At a time of record job growth, this full year allocation at the very outset of the fiscal year will ensure that businesses can plan for their peak season labor needs,” Mayorkas said. 

“We also will bolster worker protections to safeguard the integrity of the program from unscrupulous employers who would seek to exploit the workers by paying substandard wages and maintaining unsafe work conditions.” 

The H-2B supplemental includes an allocation of 20,000 visas to workers from Haiti and the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. 

This advances the Biden administration’s pledge, under the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection, to expand legal pathways as an alternative to irregular migration. 

This is also consistent with the joint commitment President Biden and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico made in July to work together to broaden opportunities for seasonal and circular labor and ensure that migration is “a choice and not a necessity” a senior administration official said.

American businesses in industries as varied as hospitality and tourism, landscaping, seafood processing and more depend on seasonal workers to meet demand from consumers. 

The supplemental visa allocation will address the need for seasonal workers in areas where too few U.S. workers are available, helping contribute to the American economy.

In addition to the 20,000 visas reserved for nationals of Haiti and the Northern Central American countries, the remaining 44,716 supplemental visas will be available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa, or were otherwise granted H-2B status, during one of the last three fiscal years. 

Last year, the Biden administration made 55,000 additional visas available on top of the 66,000 already allotted, the largest H-2B visa release since Congress changed the rules in 2017.

The regulation will allocate these remaining supplemental visas for returning workers between the first half and second half of the fiscal year to account for the need for additional seasonal workers over the course of the year, with a portion of the second half allocation reserved to meet the demand for workers during the peak summer season.

The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States. The employment must be of a temporary nature, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need or intermittent need.

Employers seeking H-2B workers must take a series of steps to test the U.S. labor market. They must also certify in their petitions that there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available to perform the temporary work for which they seek a prospective foreign worker. 

In addition, employers must certify that employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

Among those applauding the move on Wednesday was Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who said the decision is an example of the administration acknowledging the labor needs of the country.

West Virginia small businesses rely on the H-2B visa program to ensure they are adequately staffed and able to operate at full capacity,” Manchin said in a statement released to the press Wednesday evening. 

“This announcement is critical as we move into the holiday season and I applaud Secretary Mayorkas for this decision. Moving forward, I am hopeful we can expand our efforts to recruit individuals who meet the diverse needs of our economy, especially those in the STEM fields,” he said.

In a separate statement, Jon Baselice, vice president of immigration policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the business community welcomed DHS’s announcement of the additional H-2B visas and urged that they be made available in a timely fashion.

“While this is welcome news, the relief provided here remains insufficient to meet the seasonal workforce needs of many American companies,” Baselice said. “Congress needs to do more to provide added certainty and predictability for seasonal businesses that are struggling to fill their job openings.”

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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