Visa Restrictions Under the Trump Administration

By Jerome G. Grzeca Founder & Managing Partner, Grzeca Law Group, S.C. | December 23, 2018

While immigrants make up approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for nearly a third of hotel workers, making the hotel industry one of the largest employers of immigrant workers in the United States. Accordingly, hotels are heavily impacted by ever-changing immigration policies and restrictions, and for years, have struggled to fill jobs with the workers they need.

One example of the high demand for foreign workers can be seen in the H-2B visa program, a program commonly used by hotels, which allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary seasonal nonagricultural jobs. H-2B visas are statutorily capped at 66,000 per fiscal year, split evenly between the first and second half of the fiscal year. The number of H-2B visa applications have been steadily climbing since 2009 as demand for temporary workers has increased. In May 2018, Congress informed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue an additional 15,000 H-2B visas after finding there were not enough U.S. workers available to take the jobs.

Nonetheless, demand for temporary workers has continued to exceed the number of available visas, resulting in the cap being met earlier and earlier. This problem was further exacerbated by the loss of the "returning worker" exemption in 2016, which previously allowed workers who had already been in the U.S. on an H-2B visa during a certain timeframe to be exempt from the cap. In fact, for petitions requesting an April 1, 2019 start date, demand is expected to be so high that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced that it will assign H-2B applications to adjudicators based on the time they were received, measured to the millisecond. Thus, filing at any time on January 1, 2019, the first available filing date, will no longer be sufficient to receive an H-2B visa.

Extreme Vetting of Applicants

Since taking office, President Trump has made clear that he intends to take action on his campaign promise of further restricting legal immigration, making it even harder for hotels to hire and keep the foreign workers they need. Just a week after his inauguration, President Trump issued an executive order titled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States," a revised version of which was issued in March 2017. While the order's infamous "travel ban," which restricted entry for individuals from six predominately Muslim countries, has received the most public attention, the order also calls for the implementation of heightened immigration screening standards, referred to as "extreme vetting," a directive which has had a profound effect on legal immigration across the board.

For example, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has implemented a new supplemental screening form, DS-5535, to collect extensive information, such as travel, address, and employment history for the last 15 years, as well as social media information, from certain visa applicants who have either derived from, or traveled to, certain countries in the Middle East. In addition, we have seen an increased number of cases placed in "administrative processing," an additional stage of national security review, following the visa interview. While the DOS advises that most administrative processing cases are resolved within 60 days, many cases remain pending for much longer. This extremely burdensome process has resulted in some hotels having to revoke valid job offers in the United States because the property cannot wait six months for an employee while a U.S. Embassy further "reviews" the visa application.

Choose a Social Network!

The social network you are looking for is not available.


Hotel Newswire Headlines Feed  

Daniel Link
Brandon Billings
Tony Heung
Scott Watson
Dean Minett
Suzanne McIntosh
Eileen McDargh
Dennis Rizzo
Robert M. O'Halloran
Coming up in May 2019...

Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.