H-2B Visas – Why reform is badly needed

The H-2B visa program is vital to America’s small businesses and thus to America’s economic recovery. The H-2B program is capped at 66,000 visas per year. This is the same arbitrary number set by Congress in 1990. The visa allotment is split equally between the winter and summer seasons. Small business owners rely on the H-2B program because it is the only way they can legally hire workers for temporary and seasonal positions when they cannot find Americans to hire.

Small and seasonal businesses hire American workers and they do hire every qualified
American who applies for a seasonal or temporary short-term position. Nevertheless, even in this economy, positions remain unfilled, leaving these businesses desperately in need of workers. This is not surprising since these jobs typically involve low-skilled and semi-skilled labor, involve work at remote locations, and are only short-term in duration.

Unlike the hiring of American workers, small business owners must go through a tough application process to hire foreign workers through the H-2B program. Employers must prove to the U.S. Department of Labor that there are no available U.S. workers to fill vacant short-term positions. H-2B workers go home at the end of the season. They cannot, and do not, stay in the U.S. permanently through this program.

Without access to more temporary H-2B workers, many small businesses will be extremely short-staffed this year and could be forced to close. For small businesses, relief must come now so that America’s employers can get the seasonal temporary workers they need to help in America’s economic recovery.


• An H-2B visa returning worker extension will go a long way in helping small and
seasonal businesses survive in the short term. The extension would provide
emergency relief by exempting from the cap H-2B returning workers who already
have successfully participated in the program in one of the previous 3 years.

• Without Congressional relief soon, many U.S. businesses will be forced to limit their
services or close their doors permanently rather than be a part of the economic


• H-2B relief has been introduced in the House by Rep. Stupak (D-MI), and in the
Senate by Sen. Mikulski (D-MD), as the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses
Act of 2009 (H.R. 1136/S. 388).