PHTA continues to support the H-2B Workforce Coalition’s efforts to gain meaningful H-2B cap relief. The coalition is currently negotiating with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and organized labor to reach a compromise on H-2B reform legislation.
The H‑2B visa allows foreign workers to work in temporary nonagricultural jobs in the United States “if unemployed persons capable of performing such service or labor cannot be found in this country.”
Congress created the H‑2 visa program in 1952 with the intent of creating a process for “alleviating labor shortages as they exist or may develop in certain areas or certain branches of American productive enterprises, particularly in periods of intensified production.”
In most cases, the jobs that employers use the H‑2B program to fill require no formal education, and generally speaking, there are no specific occupational or educational requirements. As an employer sponsored program, businesses — not workers — initiate the H‑2B process.
Currently, and as of 1990, Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first
A New York City woman was killed this August in a freak accident when a tree fell into her apartment’s pool while she was swimming. See story on page 5. half of the fiscal year (Oct. 1 – March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – Sept. 30).
By some estimates, demand for H-2B workers is twice the cap set by Congress so that many businesses are left with unfilled positions.
Businesses receive H-2B workers based on a lottery, and generally, the lottery selects entire petitions — which include all the workers that an individual employer is seeking — rather than selecting individual beneficiaries from each petition. This means that employers either receive all their workers or none.
Many receive none and are forced to curtail operations due to lack of workers.
This is why small businesses support H-2B cap relief.
I n ear ly July, the Hous e Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment that would extend the current authority for the Department of Homeland Security to issue up to approximately 65,000 additional H-2B visas during the fiscal year with a requirement that the Secretary of Homeland Security take action on these supplemental visas within 60 days.
Later in July, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its version of the DHS funding bill extending the existing H-2B cap discretionary language and adding an additional requirement that the Homeland Security Secretary “shall” issue supplemental visas.
On August 2, representatives from the House Judiciary Committee, H-2B Workforce Coalition, the AFLCIO, and other labor unions held a “listening session” to discuss their priorities for H-2B reform.
Following this meeting, a small group of representatives from Congress, industry, and organized labor are continuing to negotiate a compromise H-2B bill, which could potentially be included in a final yearend spending package.
The good news is that both the House and Senate spending bills contain some improved cap relief language. Whether or not agreement can be reached on a permanent solution in the annual appropriations process, it’s likely that at a minimum, the discretionary cap language will continue.
Ideally, the PHTA will reach a compromise with all parties that provides for permanent cap relief for its members in the form of a returning worker exemption. The PHTA does not expect Congress to send a final spending bill to the President until after the November elections.
PHTA continues to work through the H-2B Workforce Coalition and will provide updates as the negotiations continue.