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DHS to Double H-2B Visas in FY2023

A worker in a protective suit inspects a rack of fish.

​The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is doubling the number of temporary work visas used in the seasonal hospitality and landscaping industries to help employers deal with ongoing labor shortages over the next year.

DHS will provide an additional 64,716 H-2B temporary worker visas for the 2023 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, on top of the 66,000 H-2B visas already available each fiscal year, split evenly between the fall/winter and spring/summer seasons.

The H-2B visa increase includes an allocation of 20,000 visas to workers from El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras to expand legal pathways as an alternative to illegal migration.

The remaining 44,716 extra visas will be 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.

"At a time of record job growth, this full-year allocation at the very outset of the fiscal year will ensure that businesses can plan for their peak-season labor needs," said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

"This is huge," said Gray Delany, executive director of the Seasonal Employment Alliance in Washington, D.C. "This visa release is critical to filling the workforce gap faced by seasonal employers, and bravo to DHS for understanding the harm caused by the delays in previous releases. Employers should get their workers on time from this release."

Tim Hygh, executive director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau in Michigan, said the additional visas "give our members a better chance of getting employees and allows the amount of time it takes to get these employees processed and to the island in time to start the season next April."

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman applauded the decision as well. "This announcement—the largest-ever supplemental visa release—is a lifeline for an industry whose workforce shortage tops a million open positions," he said. "This will provide the travel industry with thousands of workers ahead of the peak travel season, allowing businesses to adequately prepare for a surge in demand."

Mayorkas also announced the creation of the H-2B Worker Protection Taskforce, which will focus on protections for U.S. and foreign workers, including ensuring that employers first seek out and recruit U.S. workers for the jobs to be filled, and that foreign workers are not exploited or abused by employers.

Current regulations require employers seeking H-2B workers to test the U.S. labor market and certify that there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available for the offered positions, and that employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

In the coming weeks, DHS is expected to publish a temporary final rule setting forth eligibility and filing requirements for the supplemental H-2B visas and detailing any additional worker protections.

Freeman said the U.S. Travel Association supports permanently increasing the H-2B visa cap. "We will continue to call on Congress to enact a permanent expansion of the H-2B program," he said.


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