New Sheriff in Town: The Biden Administration and the H-2B Program

Is the Biden administration going to be more supportive of H-2B than the Trump administration and when will they release additional visas?

I am asked this question perhaps more than any other, and the answer is not black and white.

Although on the surface it may seem that the Democrats are friendlier towards foreign workers and immigrants, the unions have traditionally been opposed to additional foreign worker visas. It is a needle that Democrat lawmakers are constantly having to thread. For instance, in the outline of Biden’s immigration bill, he does not increase the number of H-1B visas awarded but instead clears the green card backlog, enabling more H-1B visa holders to obtain a green card.

Biden has historically had a close working relationship with the unions. The unions are adamantly opposed to the H-2B program, proof positive is the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s Seasonal Worker Solidarity Act recently introduced by Joaquin Castro.  Click here to view our response to union complaints of H-2B abuse and click here to view our comments on the outline of the bill released last year.

The Biden Department of Labor will likely hold significant influence over Biden’s immigration and workforce portfolio. This will have implications on the additional visa release. Even though the ultimate authority to release the visas lies with DHS, DOL will have an outsized impact on the stipulations and number of visas that are ultimately released.

In terms of the Biden administration’s discretionary authority to release additional visas, it is too early to speculate on this. The DHS nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, is reportedly supportive of the temporary visa programs. He is known as a moderate and is someone that should be fair to both sides.  DHS and DOL are already aware of their authority to release additional visas and conversations have begun but it is unlikely there will be an indication on the number of visas they plan to release and the timing until early March.

Time will tell.

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