The U.S. government has announced an increase of 15,000 additional visas for temporary non-agricultural workers under the H-2B program for this fiscal year.
According to the Departments of Homeland Security, to qualify for the additional visas, petitioners must attest, under penalty of perjury, that their business is likely to suffer irreparable harm if it cannot employ H-2B nonimmigrant workers during fiscal year (FY) 2017.
After consulting with Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly determined there are not enough qualified and willing U.S. workers available to perform temporary nonagricultural labor to satisfy the needs of some American businesses in FY 2017.
The development comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has declared this week as "Made In America" week and vowed to stand up for the U.S. workers.
"Congress gave me the discretionary authority to provide temporary relief to American businesses at risk of significant harm due to a lack of available seasonal workers," said DHS Secretary John Kelly. "As a demonstration of the Administration's commitment to supporting American businesses, DHS is providing this one-time increase to the congressionally set annual cap."
The H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Worker program was designed to serve U.S. businesses unable to find a sufficient number of qualified U.S. workers to perform nonagricultural work of a temporary nature.
Congress set the annual H-2B cap at 66,000. A maximum of 33,000 H-2B visas are available during the first half of the fiscal year, and the remainder, including any unused H-2B visas, is available starting April 1 through September 30.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on March 13 this year received sufficient H-2B petitions to meet the full FY 2017 statutory cap of 66,000.
In May, Congress delegated its authority to the Secretary to increase the number of temporary nonagricultural work visas available to U.S. employers through September 30. The Secretary took the intervening time to consult with the Secretary of Labor on the issue and to properly develop this rule in accordance with Congressional requirements.
Starting this week, eligible petitioners for H-2B visas can file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and must submit a supplemental attestation on Form ETA 9142-B-CAA with their petition. A new tip line to report general H-2B abuse and employer violations has also been established.
Meanwhile, in a strong declaration during a 'Made in America Week' event, President Donald Trump asserted that the United States needs to crack down on the predatory online sale of foreign goods that are destroying shopping centres throughout the United States.
Promising to stand up for American companies and their employees, Trump issued a warning that the US would take retaliatory action against "unfair trade practices" by other nations, reports CNN.
"We have countries that charge us 100% tax on a product. And when that product is sold by them to us, we brilliantly charge them nothing. People say, 'Oh that's free trade.' No, that's a stupid trade. That's really stupid trade. It's incredible," the President said.
Further noting that US stores have been closing at record numbers because of the online sales, Trump asserted that the industry must be protected for the sake of the US national security.
"We must also fight the unfair trade practices that have gutted out industry and that includes cracking down on the predatory online sales of foreign goods. It's absolutely killing our shoppers and our shopping centres," he said.
The Trump administration on Monday kicked off a three-week Made in America campaign to promote US-made products and encourage US businesses to hire more Americans.