On April 2, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is holding off on plans to issue additional H-2B visas. DHS had previously agreed to make an additional 35,000 visas available to seasonal employers after the visa quota (or cap) had been met for the second half of fiscal year (FY) 2020. The announcement did not include detailed information, but said that H-2B visas are on hold until further notice pending review of current “economic circumstances” in the United States, presumably due to the impact of COVID-19.
The H-2B program provides temporary nonagricultural labor to employers facing a shortage of available workers in the United States. Employers must demonstrate that the need for workers is temporary based on a one-time, seasonal, intermittent, or peak-load need. Common H-2B positions include hotel staff, housekeepers, janitors, amusement park workers, landscapers, and warehouse workers, among others. H-2B visas are subject to a quota of 66,000 visas per fiscal year, with 33,000 visas available in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 through March 31) and the remaining 33,000 reserved for the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 through September 30).
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to the policy changes and will post updates on our Immigration blog and in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available.