Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen announced on May 25, 2018, that the federal government will add 15,000 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for fiscal year 2018. Secretary Nielsen said she determined that there is a shortage of qualified, U.S. workers available to perform temporary nonagricultural labor to fulfil the needs of U.S. businesses in FY 2018. This is in addition to the 66,000 H-2B visas already issued for this year. She said she came to this conclusion after consulting with Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, members of Congress, and business owners.
The move follows statements President Donald Trump made at a rally on April 28, 2018, during which he said, “The unemployment picture is so good, it’s so strong, that we have to let people come in. They’re going to be guest workers. They’re going to come in, they’re going to work on your farms, we’re going to have the H-2Bs come in, we’re going to have a lot of things happening but then they have to go out.”
Secretary Nielsen said, “The limitations on H-2B visas were originally meant to protect American workers, but when we enter a situation where the program unintentionally harms American businesses it needs to be reformed. I call on Congress to pass much-needed reforms of the program and to expressly set the number of H-2B visas in statute. We are once again in a situation where Congress has passed the buck and turned a decision over to [the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)] that would be better situated with Congress, who knows the needs of the program. As Secretary, I remain committed to protecting U.S. workers and strengthening the integrity of our lawful immigration system and look forward to working with Congress to do so.”
Congress set the annual H-2B visa cap at 66,000. A maximum of 33,000 H-2B visas are available during the first half of the fiscal year, and the remainder, including any unused H-2B visas from the first half of that fiscal year, is available starting April 1 through September 30. On February 27, 2018, USCIS determined that it had received a sufficient number of H-2B petitions to meet the full FY 2018 statutory cap of 66,000.
In the FY 2018 omnibus spending bill, Congress delegated authority to the Secretary to inrease the number of temporary nonagricultural worker visas available to U.S. employers through September 30, just as it did in the FY 2017 omnibus bill.