On April 20, 2021, USCIS announced that it would add 22,000 visas to the number of visas available for seasonal non-agricultural worker positions with start dates from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021. The 33,000 H-2B visa cap for the second half of FY 2021 had already been reached in February, 2020.
The visas will be available only to employers who attest that they will suffer irreparable harm if they don’t get additional employees under the H-2B cap increase. Employers also will be able to hire H-2B visa holders who are already in the U.S. working for other employers once they file the visa petition for the workers, without needing to wait for the petition’s approval.
The announcement notes that 6,000 of the 22,000 visas will be reserved for citizens of the Northern Triangle countries, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, in order to create a legal channel for individuals from those countries to enter the U.S. However, if employers do not have connections to labor recruiters in those countries, as a practical matter, this provision may help neither citizens from those countries, nor U.S. employers needing more seasonal workers.
The administration’s 22,000 increase is disappointingly low, given that over 69,000 more H-2B visas could have been authorized under the terms of the FY 2021 omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in December 2020.
This year, with the new administration, bipartisan immigration reforms should be possible to achieve. Instead of issuing consecutive one-year cap increases, as Congress has done for at least the past 5 years, Congress should craft a permanent law increasing the number of temporary H-2B visas available to meet the nationwide need for non-agricultural seasonal workers.