The Trump administration has announced that it will issue an additional 30,000 H-2B non-agricultural seasonal work visas in fiscal year 2019 which ends on September 30. The additional visas will be limited to returning workers who received H-2B visas in one or more of the previous three fiscal years (2016, 2017 or 2018).
The H-2B program was created in 1990 to provide access to temporary seasonal workers for non-agricultural positions when no local workers are available. In order to qualify for the program, an employer must prove that the business has a need for temporary workers, that extensive recruitment for workers was done but unsuccessful, and that the position offers at least the federal prevailing wage (which is generally higher than the minimum wage).
The number of workers allowed to participate in the program is limited to 66,000 but can be temporarily modified by the administration under certain conditions. Participants in the program are required to return home when their temporary work period expires.
Employers with a valid Department of Labor (DOL) temporary labor certification for a start date of April 1 can apply directly to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) without re-advertising or going back through the DOL process, provided that their visa petitions are submitted to USCIS before the expiration of their labor certification, which should run through May 14.
Employers will also need to submit an attestation form from DOL that states that without H-2B workers, the employer will suffer “irreparable harm” or permanent and severe financial loss.
After May 14, employers will need to re-advertise jobs and file a new application for labor certification with DOL.
Meanwhile, Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner has been spending months working on an administration plan that could bridge the wide gap between Democrats and Republicans on reforming our immigration system.
According to reports, the plan will address six broad goals: 1. securing the southern border, including “physical infrastructure … where needed”; 2. protecting American wages; 3. attracting and retaining “the best and brightest to America”; 4. “unify[ing] families;”; 5. legally bringing in labor for critical industries, and; 6. enforcing humanitarian values.
After a recent meeting with Republican senators, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said “The President and Senators discussed a potential plan that would secure the border, protect and raise wages for the American worker, and move toward a merit based immigration system. President Trump wants a commonsense, lawful and safe immigration system that Americans, and those wanting to become Americans, have deserved for a long time.”
Shawn McBurney is the Senior Director of Government Relations for the Society of American Florists