As we’ve reported previously, in the omnibus spending bill enacted in February 2019, Congress authorized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue up to 69,320 additional H-2B seasonal non-agricultural worker visas to supplement the 33,000 H-2B visas available for positions beginning between April 1st and September 30th, 2019.
In FY 2017 and FY 2018, Congress authorized up to that same number of additional visas, but DHS only released an additional 15,000 visas instead.
For FY 2019, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen indicated on March 29, 2019 to several members of Congress that the administration will issue 30,000 additional visas beyond the usual 33,000 summer season cap. That falls 39,320 visas short of the number DHS could have issued under the Congressional fix, but is an improvement over the prior two fiscal years.
However, there is a catch. According to the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association, “the additional visas will be available only to applicants who have held H-2B status in at least one of the past three fiscal years (2016, 2017 and 2018).” The additional visas will not be available until DHS issues a temporary final rule and has published it for public inspection.
The 33,000 usual H-2B visa cap for the second half of FY 2019 was reached on February 22, 2019. Maine employers who depend on H-2B visas for their spring/summer seasonal worker needs should cross fingers that DHS will act quickly to make the additional visas available, and can check for updates on USCIS’s H-2B visa page.