U.S. to Allow an Additional 20,000 Immigrant Visa Workers as Unemployment Sits at 4.2 Percent

The United States will grant an additional 20,000 H-2B temporary work visas to nonagricultural workers for the 2022 financial year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) announced today.

This move marks the first time that the DHS has moved to increase the cap on visas in the first half of a financial year, the agency writes, as 13,500 of these visas will be designated to program participants in one of the last three years. The remaining 6,500 are reserved for individuals from Haiti and the Northern Triangle of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

"At a time of record job growth, additional H-2B visas will help to fuel our Nation's historic economic recovery," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. "DHS is taking action to protect American businesses and create opportunities that will expand lawful pathways to the United States for workers from the Northern Triangle countries and Haiti."

Unemployment in the United States stands at 4.2 percent, according to the most recent data shared by Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number dropped by 0.4 percentage points from the total posted the month prior. While this figure represents a steep drop from the 14.8 percent total record in April 2020, it sits above the 3.5 percent total recorded before the pandemic.

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The U.S. will grant an additional 20,000 H-2B temporary work visas to nonagricultural workers for the 2022 financial year. The program offers legal work to individuals from foreign countries seeking employment in America. Here, children from the Anapra area observe a binational prayer at the border wall between Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, and Sunland Park, New Mexico, U.S., on May 3, 2018. Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images

While unemployment continues to trend in a positive direction, America still faces issues tied to worker shortages. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Dec. 8 that 11 million jobs remain unfilled, with the accommodation and food service industries expressing the greatest rise in need.

As jobs remain unfilled, the United States continues to see a migrant surge at its southern border, with authorities reporting nearly 174,000 encounters in October. A report by a coalition of migrant advocacy groups found that economic insecurity was recorded as one of the most prevalent drivers of migration.

Through the H-2B program, employers temporarily hire noncitizens to fill vacant positions in the U.S. These employers must certify that there are not enough American workers "able, willing, qualified, and available" to carry out the work. Often these workers fill seasonal positions in sectors that experience fluctuations in labor need.

DHS wrote in its report that it intends to issue a proposal on how it can "modernize and reform" the program. This proposal aims to "incorporate program efficiencies and protect against the exploitation of H-2B workers."

"In the coming months, DHS will seek to implement policies that will make the H-2B program even more responsive to the needs of our economy, while protecting the rights of both U.S. and noncitizen workers."