President Bush Signs H-2B Cap Relief into Law

The American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) announced that the President signed H.R. 1268, the “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act” which provides funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This bill also contains the “Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act,” which would provide cap exemptions for service sector guest workers who participated in the H-2B visa program in any of the last three years.

“This legislation was made possible by the tireless grass roots efforts of ANLA members and other service sector employers,” said John Meredith, ANLA’s director of Legislative Relations. According to Meredith, “this legislation rewards those firms relying on the only legal channel to obtain seasonal help.” The passage of the H-2B legislation means that employers will have access to a foreign labor “safety net” despite the 66,000-worker cap being hit in January of 2005. Employers depend on these seasonal workers to make up shortfalls in the domestic workforce.

According to bill language, employers will be able to file new H-2B visa petitions with the Immigration Service starting May 25. Any worker who has had an H-2B visa in any one of the last three years will be exempt from the H-2B cap (this fiscal year and next). The burden of proof needed to certify that status will fall on the employer. There will be opportunities for new H-2B workers to come and work this year based on the number of exempt workers currently working in the program. Additional instructions on certification, filing dates and special filing requirements, will be issued shortly by DHS. ANLA and other coalition partners are working to ensure that implementation starts as quickly as possible.

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