AHLA to DHS: Expand H-2B visas so hoteliers can meet demand

Visa

American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) Interim President & CEO Kevin Carey today thanked President Biden for signing legislation allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand the number of H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas, and called on DHS to exercise that authority as soon as possible so hotels can hire the staff they need to maintain and expand their operations.

“Hotels across the nation are economic engines for the communities they serve. But labor shortages across the economy are preventing hotels from hiring the staff they need and reaching their full economic potential,” said AHLA Interim President & CEO Kevin Carey. “DHS can help hoteliers fill tens of thousands of open jobs across the country by making available nearly 65,000 additional H-2B visas. We thank the president for signing this important policy into law and urge DHS to quickly expand the visa pool so hoteliers can meet these critical workforce needs.”

Background
President Biden on March 23 signed into law the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, H.R. 2882, which authorizes DHS to increase the number of H-2B temporary nonagricultural workers if it determines that “the needs of United States businesses cannot be satisfied during fiscal year 2024 with United States workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor.”

Upon making that determination, DHS can approve an expansion of the H-2B visa pool by nearly 65,000 visas. These extra visas will be crucial to helping hotels and resorts – particularly those in remote vacation destinations – fill seasonal roles, and those roles will be more easily filled the earlier DHS approves this expansion.

As chair of the H-2B Coalition, AHLA Vice President for Federal Affairs Ashley McNeil played a pivotal role in securing this change to the law. For the last two years, DHS used similar authority to expand H-2B visas by 64,716 in recognition of the need for more seasonal workers.

Hotels continue to offer increased wages, benefits, and workplace flexibility to attract and retain workers. In January, national average hotel wages were at a near-record high of $23.86 per hour. Since the pandemic, average hotel wages (+27.3%) have increased 30% faster than average wages throughout the general economy (+20.9%).

Nonetheless, there are currently more than 80,000 hotel jobs open in the U.S., according to Indeed. And as of January, there were 8.9 million job openings in the United States and only 6.1 million available workers to fill those jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.