Horse Industry, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Urge DHS to Release Extra Visas Now!

On Thursday, April 8, AHC participated in a two-hour long “listening session” with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, who received comments on supplemental visas to be issued under the H-2B guest worker visa program. According to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 spending law, DHS has the discretion to effectively double the number of visas allowed under the 66,000 statutory cap. Representatives from 26 stakeholders weighed in on a recommended path forward with respect to issuing the supplementals.

Citing an anonymous horse training operation in New York, AHC shared the following facts to illustrate the industry’s labor challenges:

  • An equine operation in New York has applied for 45-50 guest workers under H-2B to meet seasonal demand during the past three years.
  • Notably, in 2020, demand for H-2B workers did not subside, despite pandemic closures. As stated by an on-site manager, “the horses need to be trained to maintain their status as competitive, racing athletes regardless of the broader disruptions caused by COVID.”
  • Because the operation received no new guest workers in 2020, the business “cobbled together” multiple job descriptions for the season, expanding work shifts and doubling up on duties.
  • For 2021, the operation states that it has not yet received any of the 45-50 requested visas. For this reason, the business will rely on the timely release of supplemental visas to meet the needs for the 2021 season

While federal regulators did not give a timeline for their final decision on the number of supplementals to be released, the industry position dominated the April 8 session. It was interesting to note that out of 26 comments submitted, only three parties argued against release of supplemental visas. Stay tuned for updates related to guest worker permits to be granted for the remainder of the year.

Details: Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org.

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