The Trump administration and Congress have come to a compromise on the 11 spending bills needed to fund the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017. In addition to funding domestic and defense priorities, the $1.163 trillion package also includes language providing a much-needed increase to the annual 66,000 H-2B cap. GCSAA worked hard with its industry allies to secure this increase, as part of a broader advocacy effort on H-2B reform that included last week’s National Golf Day activities. The cap increase is vital to ensuring that the H-2B program remains an important tool for golf course management.
The H-2B program helps fill seasonal jobs at golf facilities that would otherwise go unfilled. Unfortunately, the low 66,000 annual program cap means that golf courses and other industries must compete each year for a limited number of visas. The competition was so strong this year, that the H-2B cap for Fiscal Year 2017 was reached on March 13. In the prior fiscal year,superintendents could utilize the H-2B Returning Worker Exemption (RWE) to help fill its workforce. The RWE exempted from the cap those H-2B workers who complied with all past visa requirements and worked in the program during one of the preceding three fiscal years. This provision expired on Sept. 30, 2016.
What the omnibus does
The language included in the omnibus allows for a potential increase in the number of H-2B workers for the current fiscal year, subject to the Department of Homeland Security's approval. If the DHS determines that “the needs of American businesses cannot be satisfied in fiscal year 2017 with United States workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor,” it may increase those allowed to come into the country under the H-2B program. Such an increase may not exceed “the highest number of H-2B nonimmigrants who participated in the H-2B returning worker program in any fiscal year in which returning workers were exempt from such numerical limitation.” The language does not limit this to returning workers – this would be something to resolve once the bill is signed into law.
If DHS determines there is a need, additional H-2B workers may be allowed beyond the annual 66,000 cap for the current fiscal year. GCSAA will work hard with its allies on the next steps, including making sure the administration sees the needs that golf courses face for a trained, legal, and available workforce that keeps doors open for business and supports American jobs. GCSAA is proud of our advocacy success to date but will continue to work hard for golf course management.
Bob Helland, director of congressional and federal affairs