Due to the backlog of 23,500 H-2B visas for temporary agricultural employees being set aside for some time, the second half of the 2022 fiscal year’s application acceptance is already fulfilled. Therefore, as announced on May 31st, 2022, employers can no longer apply for H-2B visas for workers returning in this timeframe. The limit will end in September.
However, additional H-2B visas are still available for El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, and Guatemala nationals. There are 11,500 H-2B visas available for these nationals. Employers can also apply for H-2B applicants where statutory caps do not apply.
Because businesses suffered from extreme labor shortages, lawmakers called upon the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) to release 35,000 additional visas. There is an annual cap of 66,000 for H-2B visas set by the Immigration and Nationality Act. This cap is split between the first and second halves of the fiscal year. In addition, the DHS and DOL can consult and issue approximately 65,000 extra visas when necessary.
On May 19th, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applications for the extra 35,000 visas for the second half of the 2022 fiscal year. However, the agency received over 23,500 applications for returning workers during the following five business days and thus exceeded the number of available visas. In response to this influx, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services selected the applications via a computerized random process.
Earlier in the year, 20,000 additional H-2B visas were made available for workers to start before April 1st. Following this, lawmakers encouraged the current administration to issue the remaining available visas to be available for workers starting before September 30th as well.
The additional 35,000 H-2B visas announced on March 31st reveal how the program expanded this year to cover a minimum of 121,000 workers. This expansion has helped numerous seasonal industries struggle against labor shortages. However, the demand for more H-2B visas remains staggering.
Employers who successfully obtain H-2B visas must complete Form I-9 documents for their employees and are reminded that the forms must be verified in person within three business days. Completing the forms can be confusing and time-consuming, and discrepancies can result in penalties or fines. Electronic I-9 management tools can smooth the process, reducing the chance of error and time spent on the form. In addition, such tools guide employers through employment verification and ensure hiring personnel recognize documents suitable for proving work authorization.
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