Amid a flurry of media reports last week and verified today by U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced the availability of 30,000 additional H-2B visas for 2019 seasonal employment. Several years ago, Congress gave the DHS Secretary, in consultation with the Department of Labor, the authority to augment H-2B seasonal visas up to a cap (66,000 per/yr). The Secretary has allowed 15,000 additional H-2B visas in the past two years. This doubling of the allotment comes with a returning worker requirement. That means only those H-2B visa holders who previously held visas in the past three years are eligible to participate in the 30,000 allotment.

The Secretary continues to encourage Congress to pass legislation determining the number of seasonal H-2B visa holders per year. In the interim, many in Congress have encouraged the Secretary to use her discretion, as she did today, to increase H-2B visas to eligible individuals.

The number of additional visas and timing pleasantly surprised many observers. The President has discussed the need for additional workers in speeches recently, and his remarks are believed to have had an effect on today’s announcement.

Sec. Nielsen indicated that a formal announcement of this action will be in an upcoming Federal Register. Please check back, as we will update this and other posts.

For more on H-2B visas, click here.