Homeland Security to Issue 35,000 Additional H-2B Visas

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 5, 2020) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier today communicated to Congressional offices its intent to release 35,000 additional H-2B visas for the summer season of Fiscal Year 2020. This nonimmigrant visa program is used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, racehorse trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

While DHS has not yet released a final rule outlining specific details, the agency has provided the following:

  •  Federal regulators will release the supplementals in two phases. The first batch of 20,000 will be available for employers requiring start dates  beginning April 1, and 15,000 to those having start dates beginning May 15.
  •  DHS will “generally limit” issuance of supplemental H-2B visas to returning workers “who are known to follow immigration law in good faith.”
  •  And in a first-time effort to align visa policy with the Administration’s border security goals, DHS will award 10,000 supplemental visas to citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, countries DHS has designated as “key Central American partners” on border security policy.

“We are pleased that the Administration and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf decided to allocate an additional 35,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2020,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “Hopefully, this will provide relief to horse trainers who continue to struggle to hire foreign workers for backstretch positions that U.S. citizens are not filling. While this number of supplemental visas is 5,000 greater than in Fiscal Year 2019, it is likely to fall short of demand.”

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Dept. of Homeland Security Announces Plans to Allocate 30,000 Additional H-2B Visas in Current Fiscal Year

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this week communicated to Congressional offices that it would allocate 30,000 additional H-2B visas for the current fiscal year that concludes on September 30, 2019. This nonimmigrant visa program is used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, racehorse trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

“We applaud Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen for her decision to allocate an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2019,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “This will provide relief to horse trainers desperate to hire foreign workers for backstretch positions that U.S. citizens are not filling. While the number is probably not sufficient to meet the demand, it is decidedly better than the 15,000 additional H-2B visas issued in the last two fiscal years.”

Below is the complete statement from DHS:

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The H-2B nonimmigrant visa program allows U.S. employers who meet specific statutory and regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs.  There is a statutory cap on the total number of foreign nationals who may be issued an H-2B visa or otherwise granted H-2B status during a fiscal year. Under section 214(g)(1)(B) and 214(g)(10) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (INA), Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with a maximum of 33,000 available during the first half of any given fiscal year and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year.

Section 105 of Div. H of Public Law 116-6, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, was signed into law by the President on February 15, 2019. This fiscal year, for the third year in a row, Congress delegated to the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to allocate visas above the 66,000 cap if the Secretary determines, after consultation with the Secretary of Labor, that the needs of American businesses could not be satisfied with U.S workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor.

After consultation with Secretary Acosta and carefully weighing several factors, including whether U.S. workers may be harmed, and impact statements from your constituents, Secretary Nielsen has decided to allocate an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2019. Further, this supplemental visa allocation will be available only to applicants who have held H-2B status in at least one of the past three fiscal years (2016, 2017 and 2018). Details on eligibility and filing requirements will be available in the temporary final rule and on uscis.gov when the final temporary rule is posted for public inspection.

As Secretary Nielsen has stated, Congress is in the best position to know the “right” number of H-2B visas that American businesses should be allocated without harming American workers. DHS is committed to ensuring that our immigration system is implemented lawfully and that American workers are protected. We look forward to working with Congress so it can set an appropriate numerical limitation moving forward.

Thank you.

Office of Legislative Affairs

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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