- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor, has published its final rule allotting 30,000 additional H-2B visas for seasonal workers for the last half of fiscal year 2019. The extra visas are limited to current H-2B visa holders or those who were otherwise granted H-2B visa status in FY 2016, 2017 or 2018.
- In the final rule, DHS stated that employers who attest to suffering "irreparable harm" from the shortage of seasonal workers can request supplemental visas, but only for seasonal workers that were already granted H-2B status.
- The document states that the additional visas are based on a "time-limited statutory authority" and won’t be extended into future years.
DHS announced in early April that 30,000 additional H-2B visas would be added to the cap, to the relief of hotel proprietors, restaurant owners and other business operators who rely heavily on temporary workers during their busiest seasons. As last month's announcement indicated, the allotment is double the number of extra visas issued in the last two years and is only for returning workers that held an H-2B visa in at least one of the past three fiscal years.
The H-2B annual cap of 66,000 visas was reached by February, a sign that employers would likely face a shortage of much-needed seasonal workers. The number of visa applications continues to far exceed the annual allotment of jobs, which has made hiring seasonal workers a struggle for employers year after year.
Employers recounted how their businesses were on the brink of closure in 2017 because they couldn't hire the seasonal workers they needed to get through the tourism and vacation seasons. This trend may likely continue in light of unemployment rates hitting a 50-year low and continued worries from employers about obtaining a properly skilled workforce. The current administration, however, has said on record that it prefers U.S. employers "hire American;" H-1B visas are also increasingly difficult to obtain, as witnessed through a decrease in petition approvals and an increase in requests for additional evidence.