The federal government has raised the limit on visas for temporary or seasonal workers in nonagricultural industries by as many as 15,000, or 23%, but employers seeking them must state, under penalty of perjury, that their businesses are “likely to suffer irreparable harm” without the new workers.
The U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Labor, which on July 17 jointly announced the increase in the H-2B visas, said DHS’s Citizenship and Immigration Services agency had received enough H-2B petitions by March 17 to reach the full fiscal 2017 cap of 66,000.
That agency said the change is a one-time boost and will expire on Sept. 30.
The temporary rule that DHS and DOL issued doesn’t specify how many visas would go to individual industries.
Laborers’ International Union of North America General President Terry O’Sullivan supports the “irreparable harm” requirement and a new government tip line to report employers’ possible H-2B violations. North America’s Building Trades Unions have noted that they repeatedly have criticized what they say are H-2B abuses.
LIUNA’s O’Sullivan said in a statement that construction and landscape industry workers “are disproportionately harmed by the H-2B program.” He added, “Instead of hiring available U.S. workers seeking jobs, too many construction companies instead rely on these unnecessary visas in order to pay the lowest wage possible.”
The H-2B Workforce Coalition, which includes the Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America and other construction and business organizations, said it is “grateful for the minimal relief” from DHS and Labor. It added, “Though we fear this gesture may be too little, too late for thousands of small businesses that rely on legal, highly vetted seasonal guest workers to meet their peak season needs, the additional visas may help save some small businesses this year.”
Story expanded on 7/31/17 with more information.