Seasonal Workers: Immigration/H2-B Visa
Introduced in November,the H2-B Visa program is a temporary work permit for foreign workers with a job offer for seasonal, non-agricultural work in the U.S. It is open to nationals of countries designated by the United States Secretary of Homeland Security and is capped at 66,000 visas per year (from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30).The duration of the visa is limited to the employer's need for the temporary workers. The maximum authorized period is one year. However, the employer may extend the duration of the visa up to three years -- but with a very close watch from the immigration authorities. The employer must also prove that there are no unemployed US workers willing or able to do the work. This is established through the state's employment agency using a labor certification process. This process requires a recruitment campaign, including advertising in a local newspaper for available temporary workers.
The Issue at Hand:
Many golf courses rely on seasonal workers each year to ensure effective and efficient golf course operations. This labor is often through immigrant workers via the H-2B Visa program; but the process of finding and hiring these workers is cumbersome and filled with paperwork headaches, etc.
Bill H.R. 3918 has been introduced and will facilitate this process by allowing employers of seasonal, immigrant workers to hire seasonal employees and these hires will not count against their overall approved year-round quota. Additionally, the paperwork required to process a seasonal hire is less stringent, thus processing time will be less. This allows operators to plan more effectively when planning their seasonal hire program. As it is today, the process is taking so long many employers are without critical labor force during seasonal start-up.
Status: H-2B Program Hits A New Wall
Included in the 2017 Appropriations bill (Appropriations Committee Releases the Fiscal Year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services Funding Bill | Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives) was funding to increase the H-2B worker limits from 66,000 to 136,000.
While Congress approved additional funding to increase the H-2B worker limits to 136,000 from 66,000, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is apparently not ready to support the requested increase. During a June 6 Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the department’s FY18 budget, members addressed concern over increasing foreign worker visas. During the hearing, Secretary Kelly said that when it comes to H-2B workers, “in the current administration, this is all about American jobs versus people that come in and do the work”.
Kelly did tell Senators on the committee that, “I’ll have my staff meet with Department of Labor staff to get new protocols in place, and will likely increase the numbers this year, perhaps not the entire number that I’m authorized.” To date, DHS and DOL staff have yet to schedule a meeting.
For many in the golf industry, the continued delay of obtaining their returning workers creates many challenges. Seasonal activities and services must be curtailed and/or cancelled. Many opponents of the H-2B program claim the program provides employers a cheaper workforce. Unfortunately, like every federally managed program, abuses do exist within the H-2B program. While mostly reported from the the non-golf industry, these cases reflect negatively on the entire program.
The NGCOA encourages owners and operators to continue to work closely with your USCIS program coordinator and ensure compliance with recruiting requirements. We will continue to follow this critical issue and provide updates as they become available.
This issue is supported by the WE ARE GOLF Coalition. Founded by the National Golf Course Owners Association, Club Managers Association of America, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, and The PGA of America, WE ARE GOLF is a broad-based coalition aimed at maximizing the industry's synergy and reducing redundancy. Its growing membership includes participation from association members, multi-course owners, manufacturers and golf facilities. First and foremost, the goal of WE ARE GOLF is to get members of Congress to understand golf's contributions to communities across the country when they're developing and advancing important legislation - just as all small businesses want.