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Congress Doubles Number of H-2B Temporary Visas; Industry Continues Push for Additional Legislation

Frances Ferrante, Senior Editor
Congress Doubles Number of H-2B Temporary Visas; Industry Continues Push for Additional Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Homeland Security took a major step toward combatting the continuing labor shortage in nonagricultural industries such as hospitality by announcing last week that it will almost double the number of H-2B temporary worker visas in 2024, providing an additional 64,716 H-2B temporary worker visas for the fiscal year beginning October 1, in addition to the 66,000 H-2B visas already available each fiscal year.

H-2B visas are used primarily by the seafood, landscaping and hospitality industries. The H-2B program permits U.S. employers — including hotels and other travel industry suppliers — to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labor or services. The employment must be of a temporary nature, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need or intermittent need. Employers must first prove that there are not enough U.S. workers for these jobs, and that employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers. The maximum period of stay in the U.S. is three years.

The U.S. Travel Association has been lobbying for the increase for months in response to the critical workforce shortage in the industry, which it estimates is in excess of one million unfilled jobs. “While this is a step forward in alleviating workforce pressures, there are 10 million job openings across the U.S., underscoring that there are not enough U.S. job seekers to meet demand,” U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes said. “A clear need exists to permanently expand the H-2B program, particularly to support the small and seasonal businesses that depend on temporary workers.”

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American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) President and CEO Chip Rogers said the availability of additional visas is only the first step in legislation needed to permanently solve the labor shortage in his industry.

“The H-2B Workforce Coalition, which AHLA co-chairs, worked hard to convince the Biden Administration to offer this considerable expansion,” he said. “These extra visas will be crucial to helping hotels and resorts in remote vacation destinations fill seasonal roles, and we thank Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas for making them available. But we still need help from Congress to get hoteliers across the country all the employees they need. That includes establishing an H-2B returning worker exemption, passing the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, and passing the H-2 Improvements to Relieve Employers (HIRE) Act.”

Reach Tori Emerson Barnes at (202) 408-8422; Chip Rogers at (202) 289-3100

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