After some determined lobbying by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and other proponents of the H-2B program, the Department of Homeland Security has authorized for 15,000 additional workers to be included in the 2017 cap.
In order to obtain one of these additional worker visas, petitioners must show that their business is facing irreversible damage if they cannot hire H-2B workers during the fiscal year of 2017.
The H-2B program currently has an annual cap of 66,000 visas and a maximum of 33,000 visas are available during the first half of the fiscal year and then the remainder and any unused H-2B visas become available from April 1 through September.
However, on March 13, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has received enough petitions to meet the annual cap of 66,000. In May, Congress gave the Secretary of Homeland Security authority to raise the cap if there was an economic need.
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly had expressed reluctance to be the decider on the issue and has mentioned plans to find a long-term solution, but after he consulted with Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, he determined there were not enough qualified and willing U.S. workers available to perform the temporary nonagricultural labor needed by some American businesses.
“Congress gave me this opportunity to provide temporary relief to American businesses in danger of suffering irreparable harm due to a lack of temporary workers,” Kelly said. “As a demonstration of the Administration’s commitment to supporting American businesses, DHS is providing this one-time increase to the congressionally set annual cap.”
Starting this week, eligible businesses can petition for H-2B visas by filing a Form I-129 and submit a supplemental attestation on Form ETA 9142-B-CAA. USCIS will stop accepting petitions after Sept. 15 or after the cap is reached, whichever occurs first.