AILA Statement on “The H-2B Temporary Foreign Worker Program: Examining the Effects on Americans’ Job Opportunities and Wages” Hearing

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

The H-2B Temporary Worker Program is a critical element of a prosperous U.S. economy. Without access to the workforce businesses need to meet the demands for goods and services, U.S. employers, and by extension, our communities and nation will suffer. A healthy workforce will always include American and immigrant workers. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) hopes that testimony given at today's hearing will help lawmakers find the crucial balance between legitimate business needs for foreign workers and safeguards for the American worker.

"A fair and robust legal immigration system should fill legitimate workforce needs across the entire skills spectrum," said AILA President Victor Nieblas Pradis. He continued, "Today, there are woefully limited immigration avenues for workers employed in lesser skilled or semi-skilled occupations, but these 'essential workers' are crucial to so many industries upon which our nation depends."

Essential workers include workers found in the hospitality, landscaping, forestry, and seafood industries, but also include roofers, manufacturing line workers, and health care aides among others. These individuals often work in the difficult jobs that increasingly many Americans no longer choose, but which are "essential" to keep our economy growing.

As a result of the very limited lawful avenues for essential workers to enter the U.S., the H-2B Nonagricultural Temporary Worker Program provides much needed access to these workers. There are various layers of bureaucratic process that a U.S. employer must go through to hire an H-2B worker. The many steps of this process are intended to ensure that the employer is following all relevant regulations and includes:

  1. Recruit U.S. workers under the direction of the State Workforce Agency;
  2. Receive certification from the U.S. Department of Labor confirming that an insufficient number of American workers were willing and able to fill the vacant positions;
  3. File a petition and associated fees with the Department of Homeland Security to confirm a legitimate temporary, seasonal, peak-load, or one-time need for labor; and,
  4. Obtain an approved H-2B visa from the U.S. State Department, or be screened and admitted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Mr. Nieblas Pradis noted, "The H-2B visa program is capped at 66,000 visas per year, and that numerical cap has not once been changed since the visa category was established in 1990, despite changing market demands. Small and seasonal businesses seek qualified American workers to fill seasonal or temporary short-term positions, but when those positions remain unfilled, U.S. employers need the H-2B program to meet their business demands. I very much hope that the hearing today gives a fair shake to this vital program.

"Ultimately however, what would best meet the needs of the U.S. economy is a real essential worker visa, one that would allow a sufficient number of these workers to come to the U.S. and would include an opportunity to apply for permanent status if they so desired. We hope that today's hearing will bring Congress closer to understanding the critical need for a workable essential worker visa," Mr. Nieblas Pradis concluded.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 16060808.