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Department of Homeland Security Announces Cap Increase for H-2B Visas

Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a statement declaring the addition of 15,000 H-2B temporary visas to be issued to non-agricultural foreign workers for Fiscal Year 2018.

While 66,000 working visas have already been issued this year, Homeland Security has determined that thousands more are required to keep U.S. businesses that depend on an increased workforce afloat for FY2018. After consulting with members of the Congress and business owners, Nielsen admits that there are not enough qualified U.S. workers available to work in non-agricultural fields, justifying the move.

“The limitations on H-2B visas were originally meant to protect American workers, but when we enter a situation where the program unintentionally harms American businesses, it needs to be reformed,” Secretary Nielsen explains. “I call on Congress to pass much needed reforms of the program and to expressly set the number of H-2B visas in statute. We are once again in a situation where Congress has passed the buck and turned a decision over to DHS that would be better situated with Congress, who knows the needs of the program. As Secretary, I remain committed to protecting US workers and strengthening the integrity of our lawful immigration system and look forward to working with Congress to do so.”

The H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker program was designed to assist employers or agents to hire foreign workers should they be unable to find qualified U.S.-based employees for temporary nonagricultural work. The visa is only granted once a petitioner successfully establishes that there is, in fact, a lack of U.S. workers and that the introduction of foreign workers will have no adverse effects on the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in the same fields.

The U.S. hospitality and restaurant industry is especially dependent on workers with H-2B visas, feeling the brunt of the visa cap earlier this year. In 2017, several inns and resorts around the country reported a dip in revenues, which business owners blamed on the H-2B cap.

Congress set the cap for H-2B visas at 66,000 a year, with USCIS splitting the issuance of these visas between the first and second halves of the fiscal year. However, the agency announced that it had reached the statutory cap as early as February.

Congress gave Nielsen the authority to increase the number of H-2B visas to be issued in FY2018, having done so in the last fiscal year as well with former Secretary John Kelly. Kelly, however, was hesitant to exercise authority over the H-2B cap, claiming that the working visa was especially vulnerable to exploitation.

If you want to learn more about the H-2B visa program, or want assistance on applying for a visa with your employer the H-2B program, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials.

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