DHS Releases 35,000 Additional H-2B Visas, but more work remains

On March 5, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the agency will make an additional 35,000 H-2B visas available for the second half of 2020. TCIA has advocated for H-2B-cap relief and is please the administration has taken this important step toward helping American businesses in their busiest season.

“The supplemental visas will be made available in two batches to prevent a small handful of employers from using all the visas: 20,000 for start dates beginning April 1, and 15,000 for start dates beginning May 15,” read a statement from DHS. You can read the full announcement and details of the release at www.dhs.gov, and if you are interested in the process of participating in the H-2B program, visit flag.dol.gov.

As a member of the H-2B Workforce Coalition, TCIA takes an active role in advocating in support of the H-2B program in general, and more recently, advocating for the release of additional visas. Each year, the number of H-2B visas is capped at 66,000. In recent years, this cap has been reached within days of the H-2B filing period, the timeframe where employers request H-2B visas for the upcoming year.

We at TCIA are encouraged by the increase in additional visas released over the past three years. 2017 was the first year which additional visas were released, and that year only 15,000 were released. The increase year-to-year is encouraging, but more work needs to be done to secure long-term relief for the tree care industry.

Some reforms to the H-2B Visa Program TCIA supports include:

  • Permanently double the annual H-2B cap to 132,000 visas and require the Department of Labor to report to Congress every two years about whether or not the cap should be increased or decreased based on economic need;
  • Allow some agricultural-related industries to access the uncapped H-2A program;
  • Provide for proportional and quarterly allocations of H-2B visa so that businesses have access to workers regardless of their dates of need;
  • Preserve access to the program for compliant seasonal employers;
  • Provide access to needed temporary workers involved in disaster and recovery efforts; and
  • Increase fines and penalties for bad actors.

It is important to note that the H-2B program is not a path to citizenship, but rather a vehicle for reputable American employers to fill positions in their businesses that would otherwise be left vacant. The proposed reforms above are reasonable, meaningful and effective, and would provide tangible relief to the entire tree care industry.

TCIA is taking an active role in advocating for reforms to the H-2B visa program, but we cannot accomplish these goals without our members participation.

We are always looking for members who are willing to participate in the advocacy process. If you or someone you know is interested in taking an active role in moving the industry forward, contact Aiden O’Brien, TCIA’s advocacy & standards manager, at aobrien@tcia.org.

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