Along with the Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security published a temporary rule allowing the previous cap of H-2B non-agricultural visas to be increased by 22,000 through fiscal year 2021. These supplemental visas are available to companies in Pennsylvania and other states that affirmed their businesses will suffer harm without H-2B workers.
H-2B: A sign of the times
The need for more workers is a sign of economic recovery. Thousands of jobs that impact the hospitality industry, for example, must be filled to accommodate the return of tourists. Some of the H-2B immigrant workers are already in the U.S. and will only need to renew their visas.
Congress created the non-agricultural temporary worker program so that employers could get labor from international citizens to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs. Previously, the total number of non-citizens who could receive an H-2B visa during a fiscal year was capped off at 66,000. Half of those visa holders would begin employment in the first half of fiscal year while the remaining workers would begin employment in the second half. Employers could use any visas from the first half of the fiscal year to hire additional workers for the second half of the year.
H-2B: Uncharted waters
Some H-2B workers such as fish row processors and technicians working in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands were actually H-4 visa holders, thus exempting them from cap requirements. The economy is tenuous still, but if this year is an indicator of things to come, the temporary removal of the H-2B visa cap may last longer than originally anticipated.