H-2B update from last week's Senate Appropriations Committee Email
Monday, June 13, 2016 02:00 AM


H-2B visa program update

Update from the H-2B Workforce Coalition on H-2B provisions in recent bills.

Senate Appropriations Bills

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the Department of Labor Appropriations bill. It includes the following helpful H-2B provisions:

• Authorizes DOL to transfer up to $20M of H-1B fee funding to augment staffing for H-2B and H-2A temporary labor certification processing to avoid processing delays.
• Continues the H-2B regulatory relief provisions that were enacted last year to allow the use of wage surveys, prohibit DOL from enforcing the regulations corresponding employment and ¾ guarantee provisions and limiting DOL audit authority.

The bill also includes the following non-binding report language:

The Committee is concerned about widespread reports of lengthy wage determination and application processing delays as well as allegations of instances of enforcement of regulations Congress specifically prohibited in the fiscal year 2016 appropriations act. The H–2B program is a critical source of labor for highly seasonal industries including fishing, forestry, tourism, hospitality, recreation, and others. The program ensures a legal labor force to fill temporary jobs when an insufficient number of American workers are available. However, some requirements currently imposed by the Department make the program excessively burdensome and costly on employers seeking to legally obtain temporary employees which ultimately jeopardizes jobs for American workers dependent on these enterprises. General provisions are continued in the bill to address these concerns; however, persistent delays in processing applications remain. The delays noted in most of the guest worker programs have grown so severe that businesses have to forego part of their work seasons, resulting in missed or defaulted contracts, preventing growth, and ultimately jeopardizing the jobs of dependent American workers. The Committee directs the Department to administer and regulate the H–2B program in an efficient manner that is consistent with the law, allowing employers to legally seek temporary workers at fair and accurate prevailing wages.

The Senate Homeland Security Appropriations bill also includes the following H-2B-related report language:

The Committee remains concerned over the management of the H–2B visa program, particularly the allocation of visas within the annual caps. The Committee directs USCIS to use the findings of the study required in Senate Report 144–168 to make systematic improvements to ensure the number of individuals admitted to, or present in, the United States in H–2B status is more closely aligned with the statutory numerical limitation. To increase transparency, USCIS shall make publically available on the DHS Web site—(1) 5 years of historical data of H–2B nonimmigrant petitions received and approved and the number of visas for H–2B non- immigrants that were not subject to the statutory cap; (2) the annual target number of beneficiaries to be issued visas as H–2B non- immigrants for the fiscal year; (3) the number of petitions for H– 2B nonimmigrants approved by the Department in each half of the fiscal year, including the aggregated number of beneficiaries contained in the approved petitions; (4) the number of petitions pending approval or denial by the Secretary; (5) the number of visas that are not exempt from the statutory cap issued by the Secretary of State; and (6) disclosure of the methodology and raw data used to determine when the statutory cap has been reached, including notification whenever the methodology to make this determination changes at any time during the fiscal year.

Previously on the LAB:
H-2B cap met for fiscal year 2016
Senator Bennet supports employers that use H-2B
VIDEO: H-2B in two minutes

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