The federal H-2B visa program is used by U.S. golf facilities to secure legal employees when they cannot fill seasonal jobs with American workers despite intensive recruitment efforts. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) must certify that qualified workers are not available in the U.S. and that the foreign worker’s employment will not adversely affect wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. The program's congressionally mandated cap of 66,000 (33,000 for each half of the fiscal year) has been consistently inadequate to meet the seasonal needs of small businesses in a strong economy. For Fiscal Year 2018 for example, the Department of Labor certified the bona fide need for 89,275 H-2B workers for the first half of 2018 which is more than what is available for the entire year. On March 31, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security released an additional 15,000 visas under discretionary authority provided by Congress. However, high demand resulted in a lottery being implemented to distribute workers. As a result, 52% of H-2B positions for the second half cap went unfulfilled. This jeopardizes golf courses nationwide who have exhausted efforts to find workers for their facilities, including offering salaries that often exceed the prevailing wage for their respective areas.
According to DOL statistics, in 2006, golf facilities (including resorts) asked for approximately 26,000 H-2B visa workers – of that number over 7,700 were for golf course maintenance positions. The number of H-2B visa workers in the golf industry declined with the country’s economic decline. Requests for H-2B visa workers at golf facilities are increasing as the economy rebuilds and there is more competition for seasonal labor.
The H-2B visa program has been under attack since 2009. DOL has finalized a series of regulations that significantly increase the hourly wages that must be paid to H-2B workers as well as revamped the program entirely thereby making it difficult if not impossible for small, seasonal employers to use. Congress has held many of these regulations at bay. Further, there are many in Congress and the Administration who wrongly believe the program takes jobs from Americans when instead it fills jobs that would otherwise remain vacant. A continued lobbying effort is necessary to ensure it provides valuable workers for golf.
By filling temporary jobs, H-2B workers not only keep businesses open, they contribute to the creation of year-round jobs for American workers. Studies show that every H-2B position supports 4.6 American jobs.