GCSAA Continues To Fight For The H-2B Visa Program

By Bob Helland | Dec. 6, 2016

As the 114th Congress comes to an end, GCSAA continues to fight to ensure that the H-2B Visa Program remains available to help golf facilities meet their seasonal workforce needs. GCSAA is working independently, and as part of the broader H-2B Workforce Coalition, to make sure Congress includes in legislation pending before Congress relief for seasonal businesses that use the H-2B program. The latest effort is a joint letter to congressional appropriators urging them to reinstate the H-2B "Returning Worker Exemption" when Congress passes a spending bill to fund federal operations through early 2017. The vote on the spending bill is expected to take place the week of Dec. 5, and efforts include reaching out to lawmakers and encouraging them to include this vital provision in the continuing resolution.

This language exempts from the 66,000 annual cap those H-2B workers who are returning to the U.S. within the last 3 years. It was not included in the current spending resolution that expires Dec. 9. If it is not included in the spending bill expected to fund federal operations through March 31, 2017, many businesses, including golf, will be shut out of workers needed for the first half of next year. Read copies of letters to Senate and House.

Beyond the Returning Worker Exemption, GCSAA also supports the continuing inclusion in spending legislation of language providing regulatory relief for those who use the H-2B program; including provisions:

  • allowing employers to perform their own surveys of wages paid for the positions sought to be filled;
  • defining seasonal periods as 10 months, not the current nine months under federal regulations; and
  • allowing employers to time the hiring of H-2B workers when they are needed the most.

But Congress and the White House need to take steps beyond these to encourage that the H-2B program remains a long-term option for golf facilities that have exhausted all efforts to hire American workers for their seasonal positions. By filling temporary jobs, H-2B workers not only keep businesses open, they sustain jobs for American workers, too. Studies show that every H-2B position supports 4.6 American jobs.

Frank Duda, superintendent at Miacomet Golf Course on Nantucket Island, Mass., is one of those who uses the program to fill jobs that otherwise would go vacant. As Frank said, "I have to have the H-2B program for our business to survive."

He used 18 H-2B workers last year but is frustrated that visas are often approved with as little as six days remaining for him to get workers on his course by their expected start date.

With the incoming Trump administration, GCSAA sees an opportunity to work with a president who understands the value of the game of golf, both as a golfer and golf course owner. GCSAA will continue to work with all federal decision-makers to ensure that golf continues to have access to an available, legal and trained workforce, including H-2B workers.