Exemption Guidance Released
Dear SEA members,
The exemption guidance to the executive order suspending the issuance of H2B visas until December 31, 2020 has finally be released. It is the best news we have received in months. Based on the guidance language, most H2B applicants should qualify for an exemption. The exemption decisions will be made by the individual consular officers so it is possible the exemption approvals/denials could be inconsistent based on the adjudicating consulate office and consular officer. I will update you as soon as we receive the result of the first few test cases.
Exemption guidance for H2B applicants:
- Travel based on a request from a U.S. government agency or entity to meet critical foreign policy objectives or to satisfy treaty or contractual obligations. An example of this would be supporting U.S. military base construction (e.g. associated with the National Defense Authorization Act) or IT infrastructure.
- Travel necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States (e.g. those working in forestry and conservation, nonfarm animal caretakers, etc). Consular officers may determine that an H2B applicant falls into this category when at least two of the following three indicators are present:
- The applicant was previously employed and trained by the petitioning U.S. employer. The applicant must have previously worked for the petitioning U.S. employer under two or more H2B (named or unnamed) petitions. U.S. employers dedicate substantial time and resources to training seasonal/temporary staff, and denying visas to the most experienced returning workers may cause financial hardship to the U.S. business.
- The applicant is traveling based on a temporary labor certification (TLC) that reflects continued need for the worker. TLCs approved by DOL during or after July 2020 are more likely to account for the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. labor market and the petitioner’s business, and therefore this indicator is only present for cases with a TLC approved during or after July 2020 as there is an indication that the petitioner still has a need for the H2B worker. For TLCs approved by DOL before July 2020, this indicator is only met if the consular officer is able to determine from the visa application the continuing need of petitioned workers with the U.S. employer.
- Denial of the visa pursuant to P.P. 10052 will cause financial hardship to the U.S. employer. The following examples, to be assessed based on information from the visa application, are illustrative of what may constitute a financial hardship for an employer if a visa is denied: the employer’s inability to meet financial or contractual obligations; the employer’s inability to continue its business; or a delay or other impediment to the employer’s ability to return to its pre-COVID-19 level of operations.