US issuing 15,000 more H2B visas after American companies complain about labour shortage this summer

New York: The United States is running awfully short of seasonal non-agricultural labour in the warm summer months and is upping its supply of already existing yearly cap of 66,000 H2B visas by an additional 15,000 for temporary nonagricultural workers to close the gap somewhat for Fiscal Year 2018.

"These visas are available only to American businesses which, among other things, attest that they will likely suffer irreparable harm without the ability to employ all the H2B workers requested in their petition", says the temporary rule that goes into effect this week. Applicants from a total of 82 countries are eligible for H2B; India and China don't make the cut here.

Kristjen Nielsen, Secretary, US Department of Homeland Security. Reuters

Kristjen Nielsen, Secretary, US Department of Homeland Security. Reuters

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen explained the move saying "there are not sufficient, qualified, U.S. workers available to perform temporary non-agriculture labor to satisfy the needs of American businesses in FY18."

“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,” Nielsen said in a press note.

The qualifying criteria for H2B visas are "temporary nonagricultural" work of "temporary" nature. The US 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, are available starting 1 April through 30 September. These numbers are not very different from the yearly numbers for H1B visas which are also temporary non-immigrant category with the only difference being that those are reserved for what has come to be called "high skilled" workers and fashion models.

Also, as immigration control becomes tighter, the trend is heavily favoring short term visas with less strings attached, where the entry and exit dates are far clearer and extension terms not linked to multiple hoops.

The DHS' move to raise the number of H2B visas comes even as U.S. employers extended a streak of solid hiring in May, adding 223,000 jobs and helping lower the unemployment rate to an 18-year low of 3.8 percent from 3.9 percent in April. The latest jobs report shows that the nearly 9-year old economic expansion — the second-longest on record — remains on track. Employers appear to be shrugging off recent concerns about global trade disputes.

Updated Date: Jun 01, 2018 23:13 PM

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