Government Affairs: The landscape industry needs more than 45,000 H-2B visas

Photo: a_Taiga/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Photo: a_Taiga/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

As expected, the annual statutory cap of 66,000 H-2B visas for the federal fiscal year 2019-2020 was reached on Feb. 18. This means that all for H-2B visas received after that date for a start date before Oct. 1 will be rejected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

The statutory cap was reached at about this same time last year, Feb. 19, 2019.

But more help may be on the way. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Feb. 20 that while not official, sources within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the Department plans to release an additional 45,000 H-2B visas under authority granted by Congress in the appropriations bill passed in December 2019.

AmericanHort, the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and other H-2B advocates fought hard for the appropriations bill language that would authorize DHS to double the statutory limit of 66,000 H-2B visas available. Last year, DHS authorized up to 30,000 additional visas under this authority and apparently will increase that to 45,000 this year.

The additional visas are available only to returning workers. DHS believes that returning workers have demonstrated good faith by being enrolled in the program and returning to their country of origin in past years.

The additional visas will be available in two tranches. The first 20,000 will be available for April 1 start dates. The remaining 25,000 will be available on June 1, according to the WSJ. This is concerning to the landscape contracting industry because the demand for visas with an April 1 start date far exceeds the number with a June 1 or after start date.

AmericanHort and NALP are urging landscape contractors to contact their representatives and senators to urge that DHS release the full number of additional visas authorized by the December appropriations bill, about 65,000.

Click here to contact your legislators through AmericanHort and click here to contact them through NALP. Time is of the essence since the announcement of the additional visas could be made any day now.

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Gregg Robertson

Gregg Robertson, Landscape Management's government relations blogger, is a government relations consultant for the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PLNA) and president of Conewago Ventures. From 2002 until May 2013 he served as president of PLNA. Reach him at gregg.robertson@conewagoventures.com.

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