- The departments of Homeland Security and Labor authorized the "immediate release" of 20,000 additional H-2B visas for FY 2022, for start dates on or before March 31. The final temporary rule approving the visas published Jan. 28.
- In December, DHS announced the rule, stating it was the first time the department made additional H-2B visas available for the first half of a fiscal year.
- 13,500 of the additional visas are limited to returning workers, while 6,500 are reserved for nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti. Among other aspects of the rule, employers must attest that their organizations are "suffering irreparable harm or will suffer impending irreparable harm without the ability to employ all of the H-2B workers requested on the petition," according to the rule.
The H-2B program has faced allegations of abuse as the government routinely releases extra visas to meet heavy demand.
DHS said the additional visas would fuel the economy and protect American businesses. But the Laborers’ International Union of North America said in a statement it was "disappointed," calling the program "exploitative."
"The H-2B visa program is deeply flawed and has been used as a tool by unscrupulous contractors who bypass local workers to hire a captive foreign workforce, who have very little recourse when they are cheated of their wages or hurt on the job," LIUNA said.
Though employers must demonstrate impending harm due to lack of hires to obtain the extra visas, the Department of Justice has investigated companies for allegedly reserving positions for visa holders. In December, DOJ settled with Igloo over claims the company held seasonal positions and did not offer them to U.S. workers. The company "assumed that U.S. workers would not be interested in temporary seasonal employment," the agency said.
Notably, employers that often use the program are in industries with severe staffing shortages further exacerbated by the pandemic, including hospitality and non-agricultural food employers.