More H2B visas released, but industry calls for reform

By: THA

Posted: June 6, 2018

The American Horse Council June 6 reported that the United States Department of Homeland Security has published a final rule in the Federal Register that authorizes an additional 15,000 H2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2018.

The additional visas were authorized by Congress in March of this year. Lawmakers, however, stated the cap of 66,000 could be increased to 129,500 for the current fiscal year.

According to the AHC, the DHS said that by issuing 15,000 H2B visas it will prioritize employers who demonstrate that they would suffer “irreparable harm” to their business unless they are able to hire additional seasonal workers during the summer and fall of this year. The AHC noted that DHS further states that it is trying to avoid abuses of the program.

Alex Waldrop, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said on Twitter that more than 15,000 applications—they cover multiple industries—were received within six days of the notice and will be awarded by lottery. He called it “suboptimal.”

“Trainers and so many businesses that need a permanent fix to the H2B guest worker visa program,” Waldrop said. “The NTRA and many other industries are advocating for a much-needed permanent legislative fix to address this ongoing problem.”

“During the course of the extended back-and-forth discussions between the legislative and executive branches this spring, DHS claims that only congressional action can provide long-term certainty with respect to the issuance of more guest-worker visas,” the AHC said in its memo. “According to federal regulators, addressing worker shortages through the annual appropriations process fails to create certainty, undercutting the ability of the business community to plan long-term.”

The AHC will hold panel discussion featuring congressional and industry representatives June 12 in Washington, D.C., as part of its annual meeting. For more information on the H2B visa program, contact Bryan Brendle of the AHC at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org or 202-296-4031.