In September 2018, the US Department of Labor announced that it will be cracking down on the hotel industry’s use of foreign workers as part of a new H-2B visa enforcement initiative. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) will be thoroughly investigating businesses that take part in the H-2B visa program to make sure that employers stay in compliance.
The H-2B visa program is a non-immigrant work visa program that allows employers to bring guest workers for a period of seasonal, non-agricultural work. In order to apply for the program, employers must meet several conditions. Employers must first prove that there is an insufficient number of American workers willing to fill the available positions. This not only gives priority to American employees in need of jobs, but also protects the guest workers and their ability to receive fair pay. These employers must first give preference to capable domestic workers before hiring guest workers.
H-2B in the Hospitality Industry
H-2B visas are widely used in the hotel industry, as well as others industries, such as landscaping and tourism, that are often in need of seasonal workers.
H-2B visas are capped at 66,000 annually, but are split evenly between the first half (October 1 through March 31) and second half (April 1 through September 30) of the fiscal year. In 2018, maids and housekeeping cleaners accounted for 6.2 percent of positions filled, the third highest after landscapers and conservation workers.
In 2017 and 2018, Congress approved issuing additional visas, but only 15,000 were issued each time.
On December 6, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reached the cap on workers who may be issued an H-2B visa for the first half of the 2019 fiscal year, accounting for one of the shortest cap periods in the last five years. To ensure a fair process of distribution, USCIS conducted a lottery to distribute the available visas on December 11.
The H-2B filing period for the second half of the 2019 fiscal year began on January 1, 2019. To meet the expected high demand, DOL announced that it would be processing the applications in the order received. This means that each millisecond is taken into account when processing applications.
Stay in Compliance
As employers in the hospitality industry are held to increasingly high standards, H-2B compliance is more crucial than ever. While many employers believe themselves to be in compliance, a third party may be able to provide a more accurate picture. The expert team at Phoenix Labor has over 20 years of H-2B experience, meaning they can help to ensure you are taking all of the right steps and that all of your pieces are in place.