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A total of 22,000 supplemental H-2B visas are expected to be offered in the coming months. In late April, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) reached a deal to lift the existing 66,000 annual cap, which has already been exhausted.

Here’s a summary of an update from Andrew Bray, VP of government relations with the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), found on the NALP site:

These additional visas are a result of the discretionary authority granted to DHS by Congress in the FY 21 Appropriations. The official rule has not been published and many details remain unknown with regards to: timing; how DHS/DOL will handle another lottery; and if DHS/DOL will require any additional recruiting of U.S. workers. We do know that 6,000 of the 22,000 will be set aside to go exclusively to guest workers from the Northern Triangle Central American countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras).

Bray continues later in the statement: The announcement is a bittersweet win for the landscape industry. We fought for months to include the language in the FY 21 appropriations to grant DHS the discretionary authority. We then fought for months after the cap was hit in February to urge DHS to act. And now the results of our efforts are 22,000 additional visas that would never have materialized without our efforts. We wish that the number was larger and had come sooner, but for historical perspective the Trump Administration did the following over the last four years:

  • 2017 – 15,000 supplemental H-2B visas announced in July
  • 2018 – 15,000 supplemental H-2B visas announced in May
  • 2019 – 30,000 supplemental H-2B visas announced in April
  • 2020 – 35,000 supplemental H-2B visas released in February (later rescinded due to COVID-19)

I think this announcement of 22,000 in April demonstrates that the Biden Administration acknowledges and appreciates seasonal labor needs and the H-2B program. This is his first year in office handling the supplemental cap amidst an ongoing pandemic and serious domestic economic concerns. There were even attempts to exclude the landscape and construction from eligibility of the supplemental cap, but our efforts prevailed against that opposition. Everyone that sent an email, or made a call in the last few months to Congress or the Administration should feel proud of their efforts and the result of 22,000 additional visas that would not have materialized without a strong showing from the landscape industry.

This all serves to highlight the need for permanent reforms to the H-2B program. NALP is moving forward aggressively to pursue a permanent returning worker exemption and we will need your help in the coming days, weeks, and months to push this forward. NALP will provide updates on the supplemental rule when made available. For Bray’s full statement, click here.

For Turf’s recent coverage of H-2B, see “An Employer’s Perspective” by Mari Medrano, HR director for CoCal Landscape in Denver, CO, who has hired as many as 160 guest workers though the H-2B visa program over the past 20 years; and “The FEWA Perspective,” by Arnulfo Hinojosa, VP of the Federation of Employers and Workers of America (FEWA).