As relayed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there’s good news for contractors that use the H-2B seasonal worker program in the omnibus bill (Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, H.R. 1625) that was signed by the President last week: (The H-2B program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs.)
The omnibus bill contains H-2B language that gives the Secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) the discretion to raise the H-2B cap for the remainder of FY18. This language mirrors language that the Chamber and other business coalitions succeeded in obtaining in the FY17 omnibus bill. As in the FY17 bill, the DHS Secretary, in consultation with the Labor Secretary, could allow for a total of 129,547 H-2B workers in the U.S. for this fiscal year. Business coalitions including the Chamber will work with DHS to help implement this desperately-needed cap relief more quickly than last year and hopefully DHS will also provide more than 15,000 additional visas to H-2B employers this fiscal year.
In addition to the H-2B cap relief provisions, the omnibus appropriations bill provides other meaningful provisions that impact H-2B employers:
- The bill still prevents the executive branch from enforcing the corresponding employment and 3/4 guarantee provisions that were included in the 2015 Interim Final Rule (IFR) issued by the Obama Administration.
- The ability of H-2B employers to use private wage surveys for the purpose of meeting the program’s requirements is maintained, and;
- The bill continues to provide H-2B workers with a 10 month work season.
Fiscal Year 2018 ends Sept. 30 and contractors who use the H-2B program are encouraged to be prepared to utilize the higher cap as soon as it’s implemented.