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Understanding H-2B Visa Denials: The Case of NJ Trans Inc. and Temporary Employment Needs

In a recent ruling that underscores the rigorous criteria of the H-2B visa program, Administrative Law Judge Monica Markley of the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals delivered a critical decision affecting NJ Trans Inc., a growing freight carrier. This case, detailed by Micah Danney of Law360 on December 7, 2023, offers a valuable lesson for businesses and immigration attorneys alike on the complexities of proving temporary employment needs under U.S. immigration law.

NJ Trans Inc.'s application for five foreign stock workers under the H-2B program was denied, marking a significant interpretation of what constitutes a "temporary" need in the eyes of the law. The company argued that the suspension of tariffs by the Dominican Republic during the COVID-19 pandemic led to an expansion of its operations, necessitating short-term workers to address uncertain future needs. However, Judge Markley affirmed the certifying officer's decision to deny the request, emphasizing that H-2B rules require a clear demonstration of a one-time occurrence or seasonal need and that employers must not need the workers in the foreseeable future.

The company’s rationale — that the uncertainty of future demand constituted a temporary need — was not persuasive for the judge. This highlights a critical aspect of H-2B visa applications: the need for foreign workers must be based on clear, definitive, and non-ongoing reasons. NJ Trans Inc.'s expectation of continued growth and increasing demand, particularly with the upcoming tariff reductions under the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, contradicted the very essence of 'temporary' as defined in H-2B regulations.

This case serves as a cautionary tale for businesses seeking to use the H-2B program to supplement their workforce. Companies must understand that the program is designed for specific situations where a temporary increase in labor is needed, such as seasonal peaks or one-time events. The inability of NJ Trans Inc. to concretely define the temporariness of their need and the arbitrary request for five workers without solid justification ultimately led to the application’s denial.

For immigration attorneys, particularly those specializing in employment-based visas, this case is a reminder of the importance of meticulously preparing H-2B applications. It emphasizes the need to clearly define the temporary nature of the employment and provide concrete evidence supporting the number of workers requested. The decision also highlights the importance of understanding and navigating the complexities of U.S. immigration law, a critical skill for attorneys representing clients in similar scenarios.

In conclusion, the NJ Trans Inc. case is a stark reminder of the stringent requirements of the H-2B visa program and the challenges businesses face in demonstrating temporary employment needs. As immigration law continues to evolve, staying informed about such rulings is crucial for both legal practitioners and businesses relying on foreign temporary workers.


"No H-2B Workers For Growing Shipping Co., Judge Rules" by Micah Danney, Law360, December 7, 2023.

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