DHS has announced its intent to release the maximum number of visas permitted by Congress this fiscal year, 64,716 visas. 44,716 visas will be allocated to returning workers and 20,000 will be allocated to the Northern Triangle (NT) countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The significance of this release cannot be understated. This is a massive victory and is a vindication of the resources we devoted to the Northern Triangle Initiative. Without our commitment to the initiative, it is unlikely that DHS would be releasing as many visas, if any at all. And our participation has been crucial to its success.
Since the initial Northern Triangle visa allocation in May of 2021, SEA has worked closely with the Northern Triangle governments, USAID and the State Department to rectify worker recruitment and processing issues faced by H-2B stakeholders. These efforts resulted in a 230% increase in H-2B visa issuances from NT countries from 2021 to 2022. In 2023 we expect visa issuances to increase significantly due to the positive impact of an earlier visa release and the processing improvements.
A huge thank you to our member agents JKJ Workforce Agency, MAS Labor and Practical Employee Solutions for their commitment to this initiative. They have essentially served as the guinea pigs, helping resolve the various processing issues as they arose. We now have a workable program in these countries.
Increasing H-2B program participation is one aspect of the administration’s broader plan to reduce irregular migration from Central America. This visa release is part of the implementation process of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection that was agreed to at the Summit of the Americas back in June. As you may recall, SEA’s partnership with USAID in the Northern Triangle led to our participation in a roundtable discussion on reducing irregular migration from the Western Hemisphere, attended by Secretary Mayorkas and Samantha Powers.
Timeline of SEA efforts
- Late July- Sent first half cap analysis to DHS, Congressional allies and administration officials
- Early August- Met with DHS and with the White House to discuss the need for a first half visa release and to go over Northern Triangle lessons learned.
- August 3rd- Sent SEA recommendation on first half visa release to DHS.
- August 23rd- Sent first half cap update to DHS and White House, said we expected the cap to be met the week of September 12th.
- September 8th- Sent follow-up analysis to DHS.