30,000 Additional H-2B Visas Not Yet Available

On April 22, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security sent a final rule for review to the Office of Management and Budget, which is the last step before publishing the rule in the Federal Register.

The rule would authorize the issuance of 30,000 more  H-2B seasonal non-agricultural visas to add to the 33,000 H2B cap for seasonal positions starting before October 1, 2019.  The text of the rule has not been made publicly available.

The 30,000 visas are the result of a provision added by Congress to the omnibus spending bill that ended the government shutdown in February.  As discussed here, the Department of Homeland Security could have issued up to 69,320 additional H-2B visas before the end of FY 2019 under the terms of the Congressional fix, but chose not to.  In addition, there could be another restriction.  Reportedly the 30,000 visas will only be available to individuals who have been issued an H-2B visa previously in any of the three most recent fiscal years.

It remains to be seen whether that restriction will appear in the final rule, and when the final rule will actually be published in the Federal Register, signalling that USCIS is authorized to begin processing the additional  30,000 visas.

In any case, while the additional H-2A visas will provide some relief to a limited number of seasonal employers, given that it is already May, and that tens of thousands more positions were applied for nationwide than even the 30,000 additional visas will accommodate, once again, the H-2B visa program is likely to fall far short of meeting Maine employers’ seasonal hiring needs.