On December 12, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) announced the availability of 64,716 H-2B visas for the entirety fiscal year 2023.
The H-2B program allows U.S. employers who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary (seasonal) nonagricultural jobs. Congress has typically capped the number of the temporary visas at 66,000 a year – 33,000 for summer and for winter.
The H-2B visa allocation consists of roughly 44,700 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa or were otherwise granted H-2B status during one of the last three fiscal years. The remaining 20,000 visas are reserved for nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti, regardless of whether they are returning workers.
The temporary final rule—issued December 15—implementing the announcement includes enhanced recruitment efforts and a provision that would require employers seeking visas for occupations with high unionization, such as construction, “provide written notification of the job opportunity to the nearest American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO) office covering the area of intended employment, by providing a copy of the job order and requesting assistance in recruiting qualified U.S. workers for the job opportunity.”
Given the widespread worker shortages impacting the construction industry, AGC is concerned of any attempts to target and limit the industry’s ability to access the H-2B program. The H-2B program currently has strict labor and wage protections that contractors who utilize the program must stringently abide by. The additional requirements in this rulemaking could add needless costs and complexity to the utilization of the program, especially for small businesses which comprises the majority of the construction industry. AGC fears this might lead to a missed opportunity to provide some much needed relief to the industry’s ongoing workforce crisis.
AGC previously noted its issue with this requirement when the agencies included the same requirement for such visas in the second half of FY 2022. AGC will continue to advocate for immigration reforms that help address construction workforce shortages.
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