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PLNA e-News: Protecting Values In the Nation

Congress Fails to Renew Returning Worker Provision of H-2B

Monday, December 12, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
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H-2B WorkersWASHINGTON, D.C. - Congress failed in its last attempt to extend the H-2B returning worker provision for next spring in the waning days of this session of Congress. The returning worker provision that was included last year as part of the budget process expired at the close of the federal fiscal year September 30.

The returning worker provision exempts workers who were granted visas in any of the three previous fiscal years from inclusion in the current year 66,000 H-2B visa cap. This effectively increased the total number of H-2B visas issued each year.

Providing this last opportunity was the fact that Congress has yet to pass a budget for the fiscal year that began October 1.  To avoid a government shutdown, on September 29, Congress passed a stopgap continuing resolution that funded the government until December 9, 2016. That stopgap measure had to be renewed before December 9 or spending authority would end and the federal government would shut down.

The strategy of PLNA, AmericanHort, NALP and other H-2B advocates was to attach an amendment containing the returning worker exemption to a new spending authorization bill. If successful, this effort would extend the returning work provision at least through the end of April 2016, when the current continuing resolution is set to expire.

Unfortunately, Congress failed to include the returning worker provision in the continuing resolution that passed with but an hour to spare, December 9.

This year, even with the returning worker exemption in place, the 33,000 half-year cap was reached in early March of this year. Without the returning worker exemption in place, shortages of H-2B workers will be even more severe this year than last.

Help from President-Elect Trump?

Donald Trump has used the H-2B visa program to bring in hundreds of workers for his golf resorts and hotels. During the campaign, however, he has shown little support for guest worker programs like H-2B.

After a March primary debate, Trump issued a statement that if elected, "I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program.” The H-1B program, used extensively by the technology industry, allows foreign workers with specialized skills to enter the country legally and work in specific areas where workers are scarce.

So, the jury is out on whether the president-elect will be an advocate for guest worker programs. He is unlikely to engage in the current effort to retain the returning worker exemption. Trump gets his workers early in the fiscal year (November, December) to work in his properties in the sunbelt, so the returning worker exemption is not likely to have much impact on his businesses.

If you use the H-2B program and are concerned about its future and that of your company, please weigh in with your Congressman and Senators and ask them to pass the returning worker provision in the new session of Congress that starts in January.

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