FRA Issue Update 7/2/19

H-2B Visa Program Activities

A good deal of activity is occurring around the H-2B visa program this Congress. FRA has been active on several fronts which include working for H-2B temporary (FY2020) and permanent cap relief. Below is an overview of what actions are taking place.

  • The House passed a Department of Labor (DOL) appropriations bill that would distribute H-2B visas proportionally based on historical demand. This would make more visas available for the spring and summer months. Visas not used will roll-over to fall and winter months.
  • The House will soon begin debate on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations. During the DHS spending bill mark-up, language was included that provides DHS authority to provide an additional 63,000 H-2B visas for FY2020.
  • The Senate will begin negotiations soon on DHS appropriations.  FRA will work to advance the House language that provides for additional H-2B visas for FY2020.  Our efforts will focus on the Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee which has jurisdiction over DOL spending.  
  • FRA has provided language to House members (per their request) that would allow forestry employers to access the uncapped H-2A program. This was done by including a definition of forestry work, which is below.
    • “The term ‘forestry-related services’ includes tree planting and timber stand improvements such as timber harvesting, logging operations, brush clearing, vegetation management, herbicide application, the maintenance of rights of way (including for roads, trails, and utilities, regardless of whether such right-of-way is on forested land), pruning, seedling lifting, harvest and packaging, and the harvesting of pine straw.”
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a bill that allows forestry and other businesses to participate in the uncapped H-2A program as an option.
  • FRA is a member of the H-2B coalition, a group of trade associations representing sectors that are dependent on guestworkers.  The coalition, which exists to advocate for reforms to the guestworker program, has been communicating with the House Judiciary Committee majority staff in an effort to shape legislation that would provide a permanent fix to the H-2B visa program. 
  • FRA is currently working with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to provide the names of companies and their experiences with the H-2B program. The GAO will set up interviews with the contacts provided. FRA was interviewed earlier in the year by the GAO.
  • FRA will meet with the DOL regarding rulemaking efforts of the department around the H-2B / H-2A programs.