A provision in the House of Representatives’ spending bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to increase H-2B visas after the Department of Labor certifies that American workers were unwilling or unable to fill seasonal positions. The total increase in the visas would be limited to about 120,000, up from the current cap of 66,000.
After months of talks on Capitol Hill, clubs may see an increase in the number of H-2B visas available, the National Club Association (NCA) reported in its Washington Weekly Update.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) has been negotiating with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to include a provision in the upcoming spending bill that increases the number of H-2B visas. The language mirrors language used in a 2017 spending bill that gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the discretion to authorize more visas. This year, the provision would make issuing more visas mandatory, the NCA reported.
DHS has specifically indicated that it is much happier with the mandatory language. Specifically, the proposal would require DHS to increase H-2B visas after the Department of Labor (DOL) certifies that American workers were unwilling or unable to fill seasonal positions. The total increase in the visas is limited to no more than the highest number of H-2B visas issued when the Returning Worker Exemption was in place—about 120,000. The current cap is 66,000, the NCA reported.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) has been working with the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), to craft a path forward for H-2B visa workers. Chairman Grassley is less interested in an actual increase in guest worker visas, so Tillis has suggested that there be a modest increase in the H-2B visa cap to 90,000. In addition, Tillis has included a bump in the number of H-2B visa workers for hurricane and natural disaster relief work over the next two years.
This disaster relief portion of the bill has caught the eye of Chairman Grassley, and because of it he is willing to accept the permanent increase to the H-2B visa cap. Though Tillis’ proposal is less than Harris’ proposal in the House, it still increases the H-2B visa cap.
The government’s current stop-gap spending bill ends March 23. Leaders in the House and Senate are putting the final touches on their bills now. The final 2018 spending bill should be ready for a vote by the middle of next week.