The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a supplemental increase of 22,000 visas on Tuesday for the H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker program.
This comes in response to American businesses reporting an immediate need for supplemental, temporary guest workers as the economy continues to reopen safely, according to a DHS press release. The additional visas will be made available in upcoming months under a temporary final rule in the Federal Register.
Of these visas, 6,000 will be reserved for nationals of the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
“The H-2B program is designed to help U.S. employers fill temporary seasonal jobs, while safeguarding the livelihoods of American workers,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in the press release. “This supplemental increase also demonstrates DHS’s commitment to expanding lawful pathways for opportunity in the United States to individuals from the Northern Triangle.”
Employers seeking H-2B workers must prove in their petitions that there are not enough U.S. workers to meet the demand for temporary workers, that not receiving additional workers will cause them irreparable harm and that employing foreign workers will not negatively impact the wages and working conditions of similar non-foreign workers. Businesses petitioning for H-2B workers must also aid in recruitment efforts for U.S. workers.
As the residential real estate market struggles to meet housing demands from homebuyers, a chronic labor shortage plagues the industry. The supplemental increase of H-2B visas can help mitigate these labor vacancies by allowing builders and developers to hire foreign construction workers and meet housing market demands.
The National Association of Home Builders released a statement applauding the decision: “Given the chronic labor shortages facing the home building industry, NAHB has been urging both Congress and DHS to expand the number of H-2B visas available each year, including restoring an exemption for returning H-2B workers from counting toward the program’s annual statutory cap.”
The temporary final rule will also allow employers to urgently hire H-2B workers who are already present in the U.S. without waiting for approval of the new petition, a safeguard that protects both U.S. and H-2B workers and also provides flexibility to employers.
The DHS also issued 35,000 additional H-2B guest workers visas in March 2020 to meet worker shortages.