H-2B Visa Processing Suspended Following Federal Court Decision on Labor Regulations
Washington, DC - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today joined 18 Colorado business leaders who urged the President to quickly find a path forward to resume processing and issuing H-2B visas.
Earlier this month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suspended the program following a federal court ruling that the Department of Labor does not have the legal authority to make regulations for the program's labor certification requirements.
In a letter to the President, Bennet and the Colorado business leaders wrote, "Businesses in Colorado do not suddenly or arbitrarily decide to use the H-2B visa program. The decision to pursue an application for one or more H-2B visas is often made months in advance, after it becomes too clear that the local labor market will not accommodate the business need. The abrupt suspension of the program has left no time for businesses to adapt, leaving many without a secondary option to mitigate the challenges that have arisen."
Last week, Bennet urged Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to resume processing visa requests as soon as possible in order to help hundreds of tourism and outdoor recreation businesses in Colorado that rely on foreign workers. Yesterday, the Administration filed a motion to delay the decision that forced the suspension of the H-2B visa program while the Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security prepare a joint rule to address the labor certification requirement.
Full text of the letter below:
March 17, 2015
Dear President Obama:
We write to request that the Administration find a way to quickly resume processing and issuing H-2B visas.
As you know, on March 5, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stopped processing H-2B visas requests due to a federal court decision finding that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) does not have explicit statutory authority to make regulations related to H-2B visas. While DOL has announced steps to issue a joint rule with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and seek court approval to continue processing visa requests until a final rule goes into effect, it could take several months before visas can be issued.
The unexpected suspension of the H-2B program will have significant negative effects on the hundreds of Colorado business that depend on H-2B visas to fulfill their labor needs. Landscaping is the top filled position for the H-2B program nationwide and Colorado is the second highest user state. In fact, forty percent of Colorado's landscaping companies rely on the H-2B program. Many of Colorado's landscaping companies had applications already in process when the suspension occurred and are now worried the action will make it impossible for them to meet customer demand this spring and summer.
Colorado's lodging and hospitality industry depends on the H2-B program to provide their housekeeping staff during the busy summer months. Hotel managers are concerned that the suspension will force them to forgo revenue, limit occupancy, or reduce operating hours. Colorado's iconic Broadmoor Hotel, for example, hires up to ten percent of its seasonal staff through the H-2B program and, because of this suspension, will now be without a significant and necessary portion of its staff starting in April 2015.
Colorado's world class ski industry spends the summer and fall applying for visas and preparing to hire the help they need for the winter ski season. This potential length of this suspension creates unacceptable uncertainty for $3 billion contributor to Colorado's economy.
Businesses in Colorado do not suddenly or arbitrarily decide to use the H-2B visa program. The decision to pursue an application for one or more H-2B visas is often made months in advance, after it becomes too clear that the local labor market will not accommodate the business need. The abrupt suspension of the program has left no time for businesses to adapt, leaving many without a secondary option to mitigate the challenges that have arisen.
We understand that the Administration must abide by the federal court's order. However, we also believe that there must be a way to work within the confines of the order to ensure that Colorado businesses do not suffer.
We hope you will work expeditiously to resume the H-2B visa program. We are happy to work with you on any path that will help restore certainty to the program.
Michael F. Bennet
Foothills Landscape Maintenance
President, Mountain Division
Executive Vice President
East West Resorts LLC
President & COO
Winter Park Resort
President & CEO
Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.
Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado
Vice President/Managing Director
Destination Hotels and Resorts
Swingle Lawn, Tree and Landscape Care
President and CEO
Aspen Skiing Company
Landscape Technology Group
Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association
President & CEO
Colorado Ski Country USA
President & General Manager
Telluride Ski & Golf Company
Sheraton Steamboat Resort
Lost Valley Ranch Corp.
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