Additional H-2B visas for FY 2024: the latest USCIS news
At the beginning of the new fiscal year 2024, the USCIS announced a number of changes to the issuance of additional H-2B visas that may affect seasonal workers seeking employment opportunities in the United States. Learn more about the key points of these changes and their possible consequences
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new interim final rule that opens up the possibility of issuing an additional 64,716 temporary H-2B visas for nonfarm workers for fiscal year 2024. This initiative is intended to support U.S. businesses in industries such as hospitality, tourism, landscaping, and seafood processing, where there is a need for seasonal and temporary workers.USA receives a record number of migrants from India, Mexico, Pakistan, and Ukraine.
Main provisions of the H-2B program
Under the H-2B program, companies can hire workers to meet increased demand. Now, the provision of additional visas will contribute to the development of the American economy, especially in those industries where the shortage of American workers creates challenges.
The new rule addresses labor shortages in various industries and is in line with the Biden administration's efforts to expand legal migration pathways as an alternative to illegal migration, in line with the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection.
Issuance of additional visas for fiscal year 2024
The beginning of FY 2024 brought a new possible solution for American companies looking for labor. At the initiative of the ministries and services in charge of immigration policy, the possibility of issuing an additional 64,716 temporary H-2B visas for the fiscal year 2024 has been identified. This will allow companies to plan ahead and secure the seasonal and temporary workers they need.
An important aspect of the new rule is the increased protection for both U.S. and foreign workers. Employers will be required to first seek and hire U.S. workers before resorting to the H-2B program. Measures to ensure reliable protection of workers arriving at H-2A and H-2B visas are being actively developed.
Further strengthening of measures includes the allocation of 20,000 visas for workers from a number of countries included in the program. This is part of the Biden-Harris administration's strategy to create a safe and humane immigration system. Such initiatives are in line with the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, which aims to expand legal migration pathways and improve accountability for undocumented migrants.
Overall, these new H-2B visa opportunities not only help companies secure the labor they need, but also take into account social responsibility and create a more balanced and fair immigration system.
Distribution of additional H-2B visas
In the first half of fiscal year 2024, 20,716 H-2B visas are available for returning workers. This applies to those who have already held an H-2B visa or H-2B status during 2021, 2022, or 2023, regardless of country of citizenship. Companies seeking to invite these workers must file petitions no later than March 31, 2024.
In the second half of the fiscal year, starting on April 1 and ending on May 14, 19,000 visas are set aside for workers returning to their home country. Again, this applies to those who held an H-2B visa or H-2B status in 2021, 2022, or 2023, regardless of country of citizenship. Petitions for this period must contain start dates from April 1, 2024, to May 14, 2024.
At the end of the second half of the fiscal year, from May 15 to September 30, 5,000 visas are available for returning workers. Those who received an H-2B visa or had H-2B status in 2021, 2022, or 2023 can file petitions requesting start dates from May 15, 2024, to September 30, 2024.
It is also important to note that 20,000 visas are reserved for the entirety of FY 2024 for nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, Colombia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica, regardless of whether these nationals are returning workers. Employers may file petitions for employment authorization in the first half of fiscal year 2024 immediately upon publication of this interim final rule.
Conditions for the use of an additional H-2B visa
The H-2B program is an important tool for employers in the United States who need temporary labor to perform non-agricultural tasks. This program allows companies to hire foreign workers for a limited period of time to perform a variety of tasks, such as seasonal work, which is an integral part of many industries.
Employers seeking to utilize the H-2B program must simplify the process of sourcing labor in the United States before applying for foreign workers. To do so, they obtain a certificate from the Department of Labor (DOL) that indicates that there are no U.S. workers available and qualified to perform a particular job. It is important that the employment of foreign workers does not negatively affect the working conditions and wages of local employees.
The maximum period of stay in H-2B status is three years, after which a person must leave the country and reside abroad for three months before applying for further readmission.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) are committed to protecting the rights of all H-2B workers from possible exploitation and abuse. By enforcing the law, they ensure that employers do not shy away from hiring U.S. workers when they are ready and qualified to do the job.
The interim final rule includes a number of provisions designed to protect both domestic and foreign workers participating in the H-2B program. Petitions for additional visas must be filed with the USCIS Texas Service Center, and filings elsewhere will be rejected.
Igor Usyk - Head of Legal Department at Visit World
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