Congress Passes Bill That Could Nearly Double Available H-2B Visas

Provisions that could double the number of H-2B visas were included in an omnibus spending bill approved by Congress early in the morning of March 23 and signed by President Trump later that day, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association said.

The language in the budget bill grants the U.S. Department of Homeland Security the authority to increase the cap on H-2B visas, which are a critical component of the Thoroughbred industry’s foreign temporary workforce. The Homeland Security Secretary would make the determination after discussions with the U.S. Department of Labor. Under language in the omnibus bill, the total number of H-2B visa workers that would be permitted to enter the U.S. in fiscal 2018 would be capped at 129,547, the NTRA said. There isn’t much time to capitalize on it, however, as fiscal 2018 ends Sept. 30.

If fully implemented, the cap would be equal to the number of new and returning H-2B workers admitted to the U.S. in fiscal 2007, which is the fiscal year when the highest number of H-2B foreign temporary workers participated in the program.

“Congress provided the Secretary of Homeland Security with the same discretionary power to increase H-2B limits as part of the 2017 omnibus spending bill passed in May of last year,” NTRA President and Chief Executive Officer Alex Waldrop said. “Unfortunately, the Secretary did not make the necessary finding of economic need until July of last summer when it was too late for most employers to take advantage of the increased number of H-2B visas before the end of the fiscal year.”

The NTRA, through its membership in the H-2B Workforce Coalition, said it will “urge the (Trump) administration to swiftly implement this H-2B cap relief and will continue to encourage Congress to pass permanent H-2B cap relief.” Other industry organizations, including the THA, other horsemen’s groups, and the American Horse Council continue to work in Washington, D.C., to push for broader immigration reform that would facilitate retention of foreign workers who desire employment in the equine industry.

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