H-2B Visas: The Complex Process for Nonagricultural Employers to Hire Guest Workers

David J. Bier
Date of Publication: 
February, 2021
Source Organization: 
Cato Institute

Since 1952, American employers have hired H-2B foreign guest workers to fill seasonal or temporary jobs that U.S. workers have not taken. Onerous rules kept participation low until the late 1990s, but as more Americans left these types of temporary jobs, more employers accepted the H-2B visa’s restrictive requirements as their only chance to find legal workers.

Now the H-2B program is in crisis. Demand for positions has surged to a level more than twice the visa cap, and many employers fail to fill open positions, which hurts American businesses, consumers, and U.S. workers in other jobs. The process’s complexity and uncertainty caused many others not to apply at all, and in 2020, executive orders banning many H-2B workers kept the cap unfilled for the first time in several years.

This study explains the complex process that employers must undertake to have a chance to legally employ foreign workers in jobs that unemployed Americans routinely reject. Congress and the administration should reform the H-2B program to make it easier to hire and retain H-2B workers. President Biden should immediately rescind the visa restrictions put in place by his predecessor.

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Bier, D. (2021, February 16). H-2B Visas: The Complex Process for Nonagricultural Employers to Hire Guest Workers. Cato Institute https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/h-2b-visas-complex-process-nonagricultural-employers-hire-guest-workers