The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in conjunction with the Department of Labor (DOL) will be starting the fiscal year by making an additional 64,716 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas available. This is on top of the 66,000 normally available.

This move represents a change in strategy. Instead of waiting, the agencies announced the additional allocation at the start of the federal fiscal year to allow employers to plan for peak season needs. In exchange, the agencies are instituting more robust protections for U.S. workers and implementing a new White House-convened Worker Protection Taskforce to ensure that H-2B workers are protected from exploitation and abuse. DHS and DOL are expected to issue a new rule explaining how the visas will be distributed.

Of the 64,716 visas, 20,000 will be reserved for workers from Haiti and the Central American Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The remaining 44,716 visas will be available to returning workers who have received an H-2B visa or were otherwise granted H-2B status during one of the last three fiscal years. The additional visas will be split between the first and second halves of the year – reserving visas to fill the peak summer season needs.

H-2B visas allow employers to bring foreign national workers to the United States for temporary, seasonal, nonagricultural jobs. They are employed by various industries, including hospitality, tourism, landscaping, and seafood processing. The need for workers always exceeds the number of visas available, but hit a critical mass in the last few years due to labor shortage issues and economic growth. While grateful for the additional allocation, some employers like the crab processors in Maryland have noted that this is just a temporary fix and that, even with the additional visas, there may likely be an “overwhelming demand.”

Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist you to undertake the three-step H-2B process and will provide updates on the new allocation as they become available.