Chamber Urges Congress to Fix the H-2B Visa Program and to Authorize a Green Card Recapture
April 27, 2005
To House and Senate Conferees on the Emergency Supplement Appropriations Bill:
On behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation, representing more than 3 million businesses of every size, sector, and region, I urge you to support the H-2B and the green card recapture provisions passed in the Senate version of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, H.R. 1268. These two provisions are important to employers facing a shortage of workers and neither provision increases the existing cap on their respective categories.
The H-2B visa allows foreign nationals to work for a sponsoring employer in seasonal or short-term positions (except agriculture). The 66,000 cap was reached within the first three months of this fiscal year. This left many U.S. employers, who depend on this short-term visa program to augment their American workforce, in crisis. The Senate amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations would exempt temporary seasonal workers who have participated in the H-2B visa program during the past three fiscal years and abided by all its rules—including returning to their country of origin—from counting towards the cap. It would also split the visas so that only 33,000 would be granted in the first six months of the fiscal year. This would prevent businesses with needs later in the year from being shut out of this important program created for their benefit. H-2B visas are used in such industries as landscaping, hospitality, and construction, and to meet needs in manufacturing, food processing, retail, and others.
The recapture provision simply allows for the allocation of 141,000 green cards authorized by Congress but left unused in prior years because of processing delays by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In addition, this provision would only apply to the employment based third (EB-3) visa category. Half of the recaptured visas will be allocated for nurses, physical therapists, and their dependents, and the others will be used mostly by skilled and professional workers. Furthermore, current demand for green cards exceeds the supply and this provision will help relieve the pressure that employers are facing for these needed workers.
We urge you to support these provisions as passed by the Senate.
R. Bruce Josten
Executive Vice President, Government Affairs
U.S. Chamber of Commerce