seasonal labor

Navigating the H-2B Visa Program: A Sonic Drive-In's Legal Challenge

In a recent development that underscores the complexities of the H-2B visa program, an Alabama Sonic Drive-In faced significant challenges in its attempt to hire foreign cooks for the warmer months. The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals highlighted the need for clearer communication from the DOL after a certifying officer denied the restaurant's application without a comprehensive explanation.

The case revolves around Sonic operator CAS Capital, which sought to employ eight fast food cooks temporarily at a Jasper, Alabama location, citing the seasonal increase in business due to outdoor dining. However, the application process hit a snag with two deficiency notices and an eventual denial, primarily due to concerns about overlapping employment areas with another Sonic in Clanton, Alabama, despite the two locations being 92 miles apart.

The denial was based on the certifying officer's interpretation of the metropolitan statistical area but without clear guidance on how to address the perceived issue. This decision was challenged, leading Administrative Law Judge Jodeen M. Hobbs to vacate the certifying officer's decision, emphasizing the need for clearer instructions on resolving application deficiencies.

This case illustrates the intricate balance between adhering to regulatory requirements and understanding the operational needs of businesses, especially in industries reliant on seasonal labor. For businesses navigating the H-2B visa process, this serves as a reminder of the importance of detailed documentation and the potential need for legal guidance when facing regulatory challenges.

For immigration attorneys and their clients, this case underscores the critical role of clear communication with regulatory bodies and the importance of a well-prepared application. It also highlights the potential for appeal and the need for persistence in seeking a resolution that supports business operations while complying with immigration laws.


Varona, Rae Ann. "DOL Faulted For Not Explaining Ala. Sonic's H-2B Visa Denial." Law360, 16 Feb. 2024.

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