In a recent statement, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has revealed an expansion of the H-2B visa program, with an extra 64,716 visas to be made available for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024.
This is in addition to the annual 66,000-visa cap, bringing the total number of available H-2B visas for FY 2024 to 130,716.
This development aims to address labour shortages in various sectors, such as tourism, hospitality, landscaping, and seafood processing.
What is an H-2B Visa?
The H-2B visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa program in the United States that allows foreign workers to come to the country for seasonal or temporary employment in non-agricultural industries when there is a shortage of local labour.
The program is designed to address specific labor needs and is subject to an annual cap on the number of visas issued.
Allocations for Returning Workers and Specific Countries
Of the 64,716 additional visas, 44,716 will be reserved for returning workers who have received an H-2B visa in one of the past three fiscal years. The remaining 20,000 visas will be allocated to workers from Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Haiti, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas stated that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is committed to supporting economic growth and meeting labour demands while upholding worker protections.
He emphasized the importance of expanding lawful pathways to reduce irregular migration.
Building on the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection
The expansion of the H-2B visa program aligns with the Biden Administration’s commitments under the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection, which aims to promote lawful migration and address the root causes of irregular migration.
USCIS Reaches Cap for First Half of FY 2024
In October 2023, USCIS announced that it had reached the cap on H-2B visas for the first half of FY 2024. This means that no new cap-subject petitions will be accepted for employment start dates before April 1, 2024.
Impact on US Businesses
The additional H-2B visas will provide relief to US businesses struggling to find workers. However, the overall cap on H-2B visas remains a concern for some industries that rely heavily on temporary foreign workers.
Businesses should continue to monitor USCIS announcements and seek guidance from immigration attorneys to ensure compliance with the H-2B visa program requirements.