By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

Businesses will no longer be able to bring on new immigrant workers in FY 2020 under the H-2B visa program. DHS posted on Twitter, the go-to place for the latest immigration news (LOL), visas, USCIS and Immigration Courts, that it had put “on hold” a rule that would have authorized 35,000 additional H-2B visas for employers who did not win an H-2B visa in the federal government’s lottery with April 1, 2020 start dates. DHS stated this decision was made “to protect American workers now and when normal economic activity is able to resume in the future.”
The tweet was posted the same day that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that 6.6 million people filed for unemployment in a week alone, as businesses shutter in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Before COVID-19 struck the U.S., national unemployment was hovering below 4% in the first 2 months of the year, when employers submitted requests to DOL for seasonal workers starting in April.

DHS had announced in early March that it would make room for an extra 35,000 H-2B workers, who are typically requested by employers in the hospitality, landscaping, construction and seafood processing industries, after nearly 100,000 workers were requested for just 33,000 remaining slots earlier this year. However, DHS had not yet issued a final rule authorizing the extra visas.

With H-2B visas capped at 66,000 per fiscal year, demand for these temporary visas, which are granted to employers who can show there are no Americans willing or available to fill the jobs, has consistently outstripped supply. DHS has had to authorize additional H-2B visas each year since 2017 to offer relief to those employers who rely on guestworkers to run their businesses.

If you are concerned about your company’s immigration compliance, I invite you to read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book that I co-authored with Greg Siskind, available at