The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in collaboration with the Department of Labor (DOL), has revealed plans to allocate an extra 64,716 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024. This supplement is in addition to the congressionally mandated 66,000 H-2B visas available annually. These additional visas are made available under the September 2023 Fiscal Year 2024 Continuing Resolution. Industries such as hospitality, landscaping, seafood processing, and more, which rely on seasonal or temporary workers, will benefit from this expansion. The move aligns with the Biden Administration’s commitment, as outlined in the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection, to enhance legal pathways as an alternative to irregular migration.
By announcing this allocation at the beginning of FY 2024, DHS and DOL enable U.S. businesses to plan and meet their seasonal and temporary workforce needs effectively. Simultaneously, robust protections for both U.S. and foreign workers are in place. According to USCIS, employers must prioritize recruiting American workers for available positions, as mandated by the visa program, and foreign workers must be shielded from exploitation by unscrupulous employers. Recent proposals by both DHS and DOL aim to reinforce worker safeguards in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs. Additionally, the White House-led H-2B Worker Protection Taskforce has introduced measures to enhance protections for H-2B workers and U.S. workers in similar situations.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas emphasized the commitment to maintaining economic growth and addressing labor demand while protecting workers’ rights. The administration strives to maximize the use of H-2B visas to allow businesses to plan for peak season labor needs and to prevent worker exploitation by ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions. The focus on expanding lawful pathways is also part of a broader strategy to deter irregular migration and combat human smuggling.
The H-2B supplemental visa allocation is expected to include 20,000 visas for workers from specific countries, such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Honduras. This country-specific allocation aligns with the administration’s efforts to establish a safe and orderly immigration system that includes expanding legal pathways while strengthening consequences for those without a legal basis to remain in the United States.
In addition to the country-specific allocation, 44,716 supplemental visas will be reserved for returning workers who received H-2B visas in the last three fiscal years. These visas will be allocated between the first and second halves of the fiscal year to address the seasonal and temporary worker needs throughout the year, with a portion set aside for the peak summer season.
The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens for nonagricultural work in the United States. The employment must be temporary, such as seasonal or intermittent needs. Employers seeking H-2B workers must demonstrate a lack of available, willing, qualified, and able U.S. workers for the specific job, and hiring H-2B workers should not negatively impact the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar roles.
H-2B nonimmigrant status is limited to a maximum of three years, and individuals who have held this status for three years must leave the U.S. for three uninterrupted months before seeking readmission as H-2B nonimmigrants.
Both DHS and DOL are committed to safeguarding H-2B workers from exploitation and ensuring that employers comply with laws that prevent the refusal to hire or recruit willing and qualified U.S. workers for temporary positions. Detailed information about program safeguards, eligibility, and filing requirements will be available in the temporary final rule to be published and on the USCIS webpage.