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15,000 additional H-2B visas now available to U.S. employers

Most people would naturally assume that industries like hospitality, landscaping, food processing, retail and even construction would have little problem finding a steady supply of workers. However, this is far from the case.

The reality is that U.S. businesses in these sectors have always found it difficult to find domestic workers willing to take these temporary non-agricultural positions. Indeed, the problem became so acute that the H-2B program was ultimately created to allow low-skilled, seasonal workers to come to the U.S. to fill these sorts of roles.

It's important to understand, however, that the number of visas issued under the H-2B program isn't unlimited. For example, 66,000 were issued in 2017 with 33,000 of these earmarked for workers during the first half of the fiscal year and the remaining amount for workers who start in the second half.

Interestingly enough, the ceiling on this visa cap was raised by another 15,000 just last week.

Who decided to raise this year's allotment of H-2B visas?

The decision to raise the H-2B visa allotment by 15,000 was made by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, who is granted such authority under federal law. Here, his request for the one-time increase in H-2B visas was granted by Congress back in May in the federal omnibus budget bill.

What businesses can seek additional H-2B workers?  

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a business must be able to demonstrate that it would endure irreparable harm (i.e., permanent and severe financial losses) if it could not hire all of the H-2B workers sought in the Form I-129 petition.

How long can employers submit petitions?

USCIS indicates that it will accept petitions until September 15, 2017, rejecting any petitions received thereafter or after the 15,000 visa cap is reached -- whichever of the two is earlier.

It will be interesting to see just how high the demand will prove to be for these additional H-2B visas. Stay tuned for updates …

If you have questions about the H-2B program or bringing employees to the U.S. in some other capacity, consider consulting with a skilled legal professional.

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