LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 1, 2017) – Congress reached an agreement late yesterday on a bipartisan bill to fund the federal government through September 30, 2017. The bill contains language related to various H-2B visa program concerns, including possible relief from the annual 66,000 cap of H-2B visas issued if the Secretary of Homeland Security, after consultation with the Secretary of labor, finds economic necessity.
The total number of H-2B visas available in fiscal year 2017 may increase to as high as 129,547 from 66,000 if language in the bill is fully applied. The higher H-2B visa cap was derived from the number of new and returning workers admitted in the U.S. in fiscal year 2007, which is the fiscal year when the highest number of H-2B nonimmigrants participated in the H-2B returning worker program. Below is the related language from the bill:
SEC. 543. Notwithstanding the numerical limitation set forth in section 214(g)(1)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1184(g)(1)(B)), the Secretary of Homeland Security, after consultation with the Secretary of Labor, and upon the determination that the needs of American businesses cannot be satisfied in fiscal year 2017 with United States workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor, may increase the total number of aliens who may receive a visa under section 101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(b) of such Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(b)) in such fiscal year above such limitation by not more than the highest number of H–2B nonimmigrants who participated in the H–2B returning worker program in any fiscal year in which returning workers were exempt from such numerical limitation.
The NTRA pursued this relief from the current 66,000 annual cap as part of a larger H-2B Workforce Coalition made up of other groups, both within and outside of the horse racing industry, formed to support the expansion of the H-2B program. Employers in horse racing use the H-2B visa to hire grooms and other stable hands at the racetrack and training centers.
Congress is expected to soon pass the federal spending bill and send it to President Trump for his signature by this Friday.