Published June 20, 2019
Ask anyone who works as a manager in the manufacturing or service industries and they will tell you that it is next to impossible to find U.S. workers to fill positions, both skilled and unskilled, and even at a competitive wage. This speaks volumes about many societal issues, including that our economy appears to be robust, and there is a shortage of workers ready, willing and able to fill positions at companies. The latest barometer of this state of affairs is that the expanded supply of an additional 30,000 just released visas for H-2B Temporary Foreign Workers was exhausted within just a month.
In general, a sponsoring American employer can facilitate issuance of an H-2B visa for a foreign worker to fill a temporary non-agricultural role when the prospective employer can document that U.S. workers are unavailable to fill the position and at the Prevailing Wage (as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor). Each year, pursuant to federal law, 66,000 H-2B visas are released, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), almost half of them are claimed by employers seeking to fill jobs in the landscape industry.
For the current fiscal year – which started October 1, 2018, it took just 5 months to exhaust the supply of 66,000 H-2B visas. Last month, U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services (US CIS) designated an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for returning temporary foreign workers to fill shortage positions between April and September of 2019, and as stated above, this supply was exhausted almost as quickly as it was rolled out. This is the third year in a row our industries have faced this condition and US CIS has resorted to taking such measures to address the expanding labor needs of desperate U.S. companies.
Among the requirements for H-2B visa issuance, the foreign worker must demonstrate their intention to return to their home country, and according to US CIS officials it is because of a given returning workers’ compliance with this rule that the additional 30,000 H-2B visas were issued.
H-2B visas generally allow a foreign worker to enter the U.S. to fill a shortage position for up to 1 year, although 1 year extensions for qualifying employment are available and with the maximum period of stay set at 3 years.
Interestingly, both US CIS and US DOL have gone on record stating that the additional 30,000 H-2B’s made available would be sufficient and will adequately address our nations’ hiring needs. I am sure if you ask employers who fill or who seek to fill positions with H-2B workers they will tell you otherwise, and without doubt, will shout from the rooftops for the need of a long term legislative fix to this ongoing problem.
PUBLISHED May 30, 2019– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2019, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois