The House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment that would extend the H-2B visa increase that was passed in last year’s omnibus bill. The extension would be for one year and could quadruple the number of foreign, H-2B visa workers.
The H-2B visa is a non-agricultural guest-worker program for low-skilled foreign workers for temporary or seasonal work. The visas are most commonly requested by the hospitality, food service, and landscaping industries.
The provision was offered as an amendment to the DHS budget by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and allows any foreign worker who has received an H-2B visa in the last three years to be excluded from the 66,000 H-2B visa cap. This could raise the number of H-2B visa workers in the U.S. to around 264,000.
Buzzfeed released an expose last year on the H-2B visa and how it replaces American workers and exploits foreign workers. They released a new investigative report this year on the abuses found within the H-2B program.
Many of the members that support the H-2B increase say that it is necessary for small businesses that can’t find any Americans to do the work. In a recent Senate hearing though expert witnesses testified that there is no evidence to support the idea that H-2B visa workers fill in labor shortages for jobs that employers claim “Americans will not do”.
According to research from the Center of Immigration Studies, there are 6.1 million Americans with a high school degree or less who want a full-time job, but can’t find one. It’s these Americans that have to compete directly with H-2B workers.
Last year the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the new provision in the omnibus bill would result in only around 8,000 extra workers since the provision was passed so late in the year. However, by May 12, 2016 the USCIS said the annual cap had already been reached and they had already approved 12,727 returning H-2B visa applications and had 1,171 still pending approval.
Read the House Appropriations Committee’s press release here.