- As of March 9, 2020, DHS had not provided notice of releasing the 35,000 additional visas, but the Office of Foreign Labor Certification issued a FAQs on March 9, 2020 regarding issues raised by the Department of Homeland Security’s May 5, 2020 announcement. Scroll down on this page to find the March 9, 2020 FAQs.
- On March 20, 2020, Department of State (DOS) announced it would suspend all routine visa processing at U.S. Consulates abroad.
- On March 26, 2020, recognizing the importance of the H-2 visa programs to U.S. employers, DOS announced that it would waive visa interviews for most beneficiaries of approved H-2A and H-2B visa petitions so that visa issuance could continue despite most U.S. consulates being closed to the public.
- The Department of Labor and USDA announced an information sharing initiative to identify H-2A and H-2B workers whose current positions are ending who might be able to transfer to other employers’ labor certifications to fill seasonal positions starting in the second half of FY 2020.
On March 5, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will release 35,000 more H-2B visas beyond the 33,000 cap for the second half of FY 2020, for positions for seasonal non-agricultural workers with start dates between April 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020.
The visas were authorized by Congress in the omnibus budget bill enacted in December 2019. However, Congress authorized over 69,000 additional visas. It is disappointing that DHS is releasing barely half of that number, falling far short of the need, as has happened for the last several years.
In addition, the additional H-2B visas are accompanied by new conditions and constraints:
- The visas will be released in two batches: 20,000 for positions beginning April 1st, and 15,000 for positions beginning May 15th;
- 10,000 visas will be reserved for seasonal workers coming from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, ostensibly to stem the flow of persons arriving at the southern border without visas;
- The visas will be generally limited to returning H-2B workers;
- The start date on the H-2B petition and the employer’s start date of need will be required to coincide exactly.
Also, on March 6, 2020, DHS published a notice formalizing that effective immediately, “a printed copy of the electronic final determination form granting temporary labor certification under the H–2B program through the U.S. Department of Labor’s new Foreign Labor Application Gateway system must be submitted with an H–2B petition as evidence of an original approved temporary labor certification.”
Once again, the limited number of additional H-2B visas, coupled with the additional conditions, will result in the H-2B program failing to meet the seasonal hiring needs of Maine’s employers. Congress needs to get to work and accomplish immigration reform.