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Action Alert: Extend the H-2B Visa Returning Worker Provision, January 2008

Jan. 29, 2008

Urge Congress to renew the Save our Small
and Seasonal Businesses Act

Current situation:

The H-2B visa program is a temporary nonagricultural seasonal worker program used by construction and other industries to supply them with guest workers. The H-2B process requires approval of petitions and applications from four government agencies that fully vet applicants and ensure applicants' temporary employment will not adversely affect the domestic work force. Despite the arduous and expensive process that employers must endure to use the program, the labor shortage has placed a huge demand on the program. This growing demand has been exacerbated by the program's annual cap of 66,000 visas per federal fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The congressionally mandated cap was established in 1990 and does not reflect current economic realities nor meet the needs of businesses that rely on temporary workers. In 2004, the cap was reached six months into the federal fiscal year, before many summer employers had an opportunity to apply for seasonal workers. Demand has become so intense that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the 33,000 cap for the first half of fiscal year 2008 was reached three days before Oct. 1, 2007, and the 33,000 cap for the second half was reached Jan. 2, 2008.

How your business is affected:

To help alleviate demand for H-2B visas, Congress passed the Save our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act in 2005 to exempt "returning workers" in the program from its 66,000 annual cap. Returning workers are defined as those who counted against the cap in one of three fiscal years preceding the fiscal year of the requested employment start date. This provision expired Sept. 30, 2007, and the Save our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2007, S 988/HR 1843, would extend it for one more year and perhaps through 2012 should Congress agree to terms. But it has been opposed by a number of Republicans and, ironically, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) chaired by Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), which adopted a policy of opposing bills that are not comprehensive immigration reform. Consequently, NRCA members that depend on H-2B returning workers are being denied legal workers that enable them to operate at full capacity during peak season, and this is having a negative affect on their businesses, as well as the roofing industry and overall economy.

What you can do:

Contact your U.S. senators and representatives by calling the U. S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to pass the Save our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2007, S 988/HR 1843. Urge them to have it added to the stimulus package working its way through Congress because failure to extend the provision is detrimental to your business and industry, as well as local, state and national economies.

For more information, contact Craig Brightup, NRCA's vice president of government relations, at (202) 546-7584 or cbrightup@nrca.net.

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