On November 16, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor announced a new limit on the number of H-2B nonimmigrant visas, increasing it to 64,716 for fiscal year 2024—double the original limit.
More than 44,000 of those visas will be available only to international workers who are returning to a job they had in the U.S. within the past three years. The remaining 20,000 visas are set aside for nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, Colombia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica who are exempt from the returning worker requirement.
These supplemental visas are available to U.S. businesses that “will suffer impending irreparable harm without the ability to employ all the H-2B workers requested in their petitions,” said the statement from DHS and DoL.
It is possible that petitions will come from at least some hotel companies, given that just two days prior to the visa announcement the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report titled “Understanding America’s Labor Shortage.” The report highlights in particular the struggles of the hospitality and foodservice industries to return to the stable employment numbers necessary to deliver service at pre-pandemic levels.
One stark statistic: The present monthly quit rate of five percent in hospitality and foodservice is nearly twice as large as the next-highest U.S economic sector: wholesale/retail trade. The other major economic sectors—durable-goods manufacturing, financial activities, and professional/business services—have even lower monthly quit rates.
Further, in September 2023 the hospitality and foodservice industries added 267,000 net jobs, yet the number of job openings is still 1.25 million—150,000 above the September 2019 number. But according to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants and bars are now about even with their 2019 employment figures, says this article. That would mean the hospitality sector is the one mostly lagging in filling its front-line roles.