by Bill Eisler
H2B visa worker caps and the lack of H2B visa reform is leaving a massive shortfall of needed labor
for thousands of American businesses. Many small business employers are suffering as a result of
having to scale back the business that they have worked years to build. Some have closed entirely.
The purpose of this post is bring awareness of the current H2B Visa situation that will ultimately affect
all local communities and to encourage you to pressure your representatives to find a solution to this
labor problem immediately.
The H-2B visa nonimmigrant program permits employers to legally hire foreign workers. They
temporarily enter the United States and perform nonagricultural services or labor on a one-time,
seasonal, peak-load or intermittent basis.
Thousands of LEGAL H2B visa workers are employed by landscaping, construction, fisheries, and
hospitality businesses across the country to meet their work requirements. In some cases, H2B
workers can make up over 50% of an employers seasonal/peak workforce. Many of these employers
have been fortunate enough to have the same H2B workers return each season which means these
workers are already trained and ready to go. An employer I know, has had H2B workers return for 16
All H2B visa workers are required to pass rigorous government screening and must be properly
documented before they can enter the U.S. to perform work.
It is important to note that these workers are required to pay State and Federal income tax as well as
Social Security which they will most likely never draw benefits from.
Why don’t employers hire American workers to do this work? They have tried but the reality is that
seasonal work does not appeal to most American workers and the work required is less than
desirable. This is especially true in an economy with very low unemployment. The argument that H2B
workers are taking good jobs away from qualified and willing American workers is absolutely not valid.
As it stands today, the total number of H2B visas granted annually by the U.S. government is 66,000--two application periods with 33,000 available visas each. The most recent application window opened at midnight 1/1/2019. There were nationwide applications requesting over 97,000 visas meaning that only 34% of the need for workers will be met. Unfortunately, this onslaught of applications overloaded the Department of Labor (DOL) iCert system and it crashed without a single application being processed.
Due to strong pressure by industry groups, the H2B issue has gotten some attention. Currently buried in the debated budget legislation is a proposal to double the annual H2B visa cap taking it from
66,000 to 132,000, which is promising but still falls way short of the demand for H2B workers.
Furthermore, because this matter is (again) buried among all the other budgetary issues that have the federal government partially shut down, there is no indication if or when it will get approved. In the
meantime, thousands of businesses are scrambling to plan for an anticipated labor shortfall in 2019.
Even if the increase in H2B visas is approved in late February it could be too late for many
This is a call to action as businesses across America need your help to convince our elected
representatives to put this issue on a fast track to be addressed. The federal government immediately needs to increase the H2B visa cap regardless of the budget debate. Or, an even simpler solution, is to reinstate the “H2B returning worker exemption” which means any H2B worker who worked for an employer the previous year/season could return and not count against the current cap of 66,000.
Please do your part and help these businesses by sharing this post, spreading the word and
contacting your elected representatives.
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