Following the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor's (DOL) announcement that they will make available an additional 20,000 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for fiscal year (FY) 2022, Congressman Chris Pappas renewed his call for the Biden Administration to take more aggressive action to address the workforce and hiring needs of New Hampshire's seasonal businesses.
These visas will be set aside for U.S. employers seeking to employ additional workers on or before March 31, 2022. The supplemental H-2B visa allocation includes 13,500 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa, or were otherwise granted H-2B status, during one of the last three fiscal years. This supplemental cap marks the first time that DHS is making additional H-2B visas available in the first half of the fiscal year.
"While any forward progress is welcome, today's announcement by the administration is too small a step to help our seasonal businesses overcome workforce challenges," said Congressman Chris Pappas, co-chair of the House Small Business Caucus. "To properly address our workforce shortage, the Biden Administration must take immediate action to release additional visas, streamline and simplify the application process to reduce further delays in hiring, examine the lottery system used to allocate the visas, and fully reinstate the returning worker exemption. Small businesses need our help to ensure they can meet the demands of their customers and continue to recover from this pandemic. I will continue to fight for these changes to be made so the H-2B program can adequately meet the needs of New Hampshire's small businesses."
Since taking office, Congressman Pappas has advocated for New Hampshire's seasonal businesses and for reforming the temporary worker visa process. He has been a leader in Congress calling for an increase in H-2B seasonal worker visas to support New Hampshire's economy, while also pushing for greater reforms to the system to eliminate red tape for New Hampshire small businesses and businesses throughout the country and ensure they have access to the workforce they need. He has also met with small businesses frequently to hear directly from them about the need to make additional H-2B visas available.
In addition to increasing the number of H-2B visas available to Granite State small businesses, Pappas is also urging the administration to again exempt returning H-2B workers from counting against the cap. This returning worker exemption expired in September 2016 but Congress at the time failed to reauthorize it.
Additional actions Congressman Pappas has taken on this issue:
In January 2019, Pappas signed a letter to the House leadership asking for permanent, meaningful H-2B cap relief in any budget agreement.
In March 2019, Pappas signed a letter to then-DHS Secretary Nielsen asking her to release additional H-2B visas without delay.
In May 2019, Pappas signed a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting meaningful visa cap relief.
In November 2019, Pappas signed a letter to House leadership asking for the release of 64,716 additional H-2B visas in the year-end appropriations package.
In January 2020, Pappas signed a letter to Acting DHS Director Wolf, asking him to release all available visas.
In March 2020, Congressman Pappas commended the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) announcement that it would make available 35,000 supplemental temporary nonagricultural worker visas (H-2B) for the second half of Fiscal Year 2020, while underscoring the need for additional visas to be released and calling on Congress to fix our broken immigration system in order to meet the workforce needs of Granite State employers.
In December 2020, Pappas voted to pass the bipartisan omnibus appropriations package which authorized additional H-2B visas for Fiscal Year 2021 for temporary nonagricultural labor to address the urgent needs of seasonal employers.
In April 2021, Pappas applauded the Administration for lifting the cap on H-2B visas while continuing his calls to reform the system to help small businesses.
In May 2021, Pappas sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking him to consider additional factors in allocating H-2B visas, including a state's unemployment rate, noting that because New Hampshire has a low unemployment rate it has a higher need for temporary workers through the H-2B program to meet workforce needs.
In December 2021, Pappas signed a letter to the Secretary of State Blinken urging him to take all necessary steps to restore visa processing operations, reduce the backlog of appointments, and lower visa wait-times as soon as possible.
Pappas is a cosponsor of HR 3897, the H-2B Returning Worker Exception Act, which would reform the H-2B program. This legislation is supported by the US Chamber of Commerce.