The United States Department of Homeland Security has made another 30,000 seasonal guest worker visas available for 2019, additional to the regular 33,000 that are annually granted. The move has been undertaken in a bid to bring more foreign workers to do the work that Americans won’t do.
According to a statement by the DHS, the US Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with a maximum of 33,000 available during the first half of any given fiscal year and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year.
“After consultation with (Labor) Secretary (Alexander) Acosta and carefully weighing several factors, including whether U.S. workers may be harmed, and impact statements from your constituents, Secretary Nielsen has decided to allocate an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2019,” the statement reads.
However, the statement highlights that only applicants who have held H-2B status in at least one of the past three fiscal years, 2016, 2017 and 2018, are eligible to apply for this supplemental visa allocation. Further details on the eligibility and filing requirements will be made known soon.
The decision to allocate more H-2B visas, which permit U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs, comes just a few days prior to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resignation.
Previously on March 1, eleven senators had written an open letter to Secretary Nielsen asking her to increase the number of H-2B visas to 135,320, which number has been available in fiscal year 2007.
“The continued tightening of the labor market warrants this increase. The demand for seasonal workers is so extreme that the Department of Labor’s iCERT system was overwhelmed and crashed almost immediately when the application window for H-2B visas opened in January 1st. After rebooting the system, the Department of Labor has received 96,400 applications, nearly triple the 33,000 H-2B visas available for the second half of the fiscal years,” the letter reads.
It further estimates that this volume of applications reflects a growing need for seasonal workers as the labor market continues to tighten. The letter also explains that in the past year the national unemployment rate has fallen to 4%, despite that about 1.5 million Americans have rejoined the workforce.