United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced this evening that the H-2B visa cap for the second half of 2019 was met on February 22, 2019.
As reported earlier, congress has given the Department of Homeland Security the ability to release up to 69,320 H-2B visas at their discretion. If the DHS decides to release all 69,320 visas, it would relieve the cap for 2019 and 100% of employers who applied for workers would receive them.
Congressional leaders will be addressing the situation with the DHS via a letter within the next week.
Language pertaining to the release of additional H-2B visas has been included in the 2019 spending bill that was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump late last week. The language gives the Department of Homeland Security the ability to release up to 69,320 H-2B visas at the discretion. This is the same language that was included in the FY2017 and FY2018 DHS bills.
During each of the last two years, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen issued an additional 15,000 visas. Currently, the demand for H-2B workers exceeds 90,000 visas for the second half of the FY2019 cap of 33,000 visas. As of February 19, 2019, US Citizen & Immigration Services (USCIS) reported that 15,704 visas had been approved with another 14,319 pending (total 30,023 out of 33,000 available). These numbers do not take into account the number of petitions still awaiting certification from the Department of Labor that have not been sent to USCIS yet.
Without the DHS releasing additional visas, most businesses who applied for H-2B workers will be capped out and will not receive their workers this spring.
If your business, festival, fundraiser, or non-profit organization is affected by this, it is important that you reach out to your members of congress and ask them to encourage the DHS to release the additional 69,320 visas as permitted in the 2019 spending bill. In addition, please email the USCIS' Ombusman at email@example.com on the immediate need for additional visas. If you need help wording a letter, please click here for a template.
We will keep you updated on further developments.
H-2B Temporary Guest Worker Labor Issue is an Industry Problem
H-2B visa workers are needed for the fair industry to survive