20,000 H-2B visas available for first half of 2022
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Guam companies may be able to bring in more skilled foreign workers to the island to meet their labor shortage following the federal government's move to raise the cap on the H-2B visas this year.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is authorizing the issuance of 20,000 additional H-2B visas during the first half of 2022 to accommodate the labor needs of American businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"With the emergence of Covid-19 variants, including the uncertainty surrounding the most recent variant, omicron; different rates of vaccination; and other uncertainties associated with the evolving pandemic situation, DHS anticipates that H-2B employers may need additional flexibilities, beyond supplemental visa numbers, to meet all of their labor needs, particularly if some U.S. and H-2B workers become unavailable due to illness or other restrictions related to the spread of Covid-19," DHS stated in the final rule posted on the Federal Register.
On Guam, the governor's office announced last week that it was anticipating DHS to revise rules in favor of accommodating the local contractors' H-2B petitions for projects outside of military installations on island.
DHS said it will soon put in place rules that will facilitate the continued employment of H-2B workers already present in the United States.
"This action will help employers fill these critically necessary nonagricultural job openings and protect U.S. businesses' economic investments in their operations," DHS said.
H-2B visa program has had an annual quota of 66,000 for the following countries since Jan. 19, 2020.
Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas, deputy secretary of Homeland Security, said the additional H-2B visas will help the economic sector recover.
“We are providing employers with the resources and support needed to sustain their businesses while expanding lawful pathways to the United States. At the same time, DHS and DOL are protecting against the exploitation of H-2B workers,” he said.
According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, the supplemental cap increase comes at a time of record job growth and reduced labor force participation.
This marks the first time that DHS is making additional H-2B visas available in the first half of the fiscal year. DHS first announced the joint temporary final rule in December 2021.
"The additional H-2B visas will become available to employers on Jan. 28, 2022.
The supplemental H-2B visa allocation consists of 13,500 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," USCIS said. " The remaining 6,500 visas, which are exempt from the returning worker requirement, are reserved for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras."
In addition to travel restrictions and impacts of the pandemic on visa services, as discussed elsewhere in this rule, current efforts to curb the pandemic in the United States and worldwide have been partially successful.