What’s the biggest problem with a lawn maintenance company?
If you said labor, you’re correct. Labor’s the hardest thing to get in this industry.
So what’s the solution? For CLIP Lawn Care, we’ve traditionally hired workers with an H-2B visa
What are H-2B visas, anyway?
If you’re unfamiliar with H-2B labor, it’s a visa that you can get to bring in foreign workers to do seasonal temporary work that American workers don’t want to do.
You’ve probably heard quite a lot about this on the news, especially since we’re coming off of the holiday season. However, for this industry, our busiest time is coming soon.
This is the third year we’ve spent battling with the government over H-2B visas. As you can imagine, there’s a lengthy process to getting this done.
To get started, you must apply with the Department of Labor in your state. After that, you have to apply to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). After completing a mountain of paperwork, you’re thrown into a pool.
Fighting with the crowd
As you can gather from the name, being in the pool is basically in a group of a ton of other people – 33,000, to be exact. The actual number of H-2B visas issued each year varies wildly, and GOP senators are hoping to increase the number of visas issued this year.
The pool opened on January 1st at midnight, and, as you could’ve guessed, the entire website crashed.
Nobody was able to put in applications, including ourselves. The servers didn’t come online until January 6th at 2 in the afternoon.
In less than seven minutes, however, the majority of the visas were already applied for. We managed to put our applications in at 2:15, which means we’re likely not getting any workers this year yet again.
Everybody in the lawn care industry is hurting right now
We’re far from the only company in this situation.
Prior to the election of Donald Trump, Congress chose to let the Returning Worker’s Exemption expire. The benefit of the Returning Worker’s Exemption was if you had an H-2B worker from the previous three years, his visa wasn’t counted toward the 33,000 visas that were allowed each year.
We were unaware that the Returning Worker’s Exemption wasn’t renewed, so instead of 260,000 guest workers coming into the United States to work, we only got 33,000.
With the Returning Worker’s Exemption off the table, we were unable to keep any previous employees. Subsequently, our application was denied for any new employees.
We weren’t the only one in this situation, either. This was an issue across the board and had a large impact on the hospitality industry, specifically in hotels and food preparation.
Hotels in places that had high seasons, such as Nantucket Island, were suddenly unable to get H-2B workers, and there were no workers to be had. American workers typically don’t want these types of jobs.
As a direct result of the economy getting better, unemployment numbers have plummeted. This makes it even more difficult for us to find workers.
This created a huge problem for us.
We didn’t initially get our H-2B workers, and we had 550 lawns that needed to be mowed. We did manage to hire around 30 people, but by the end of the season, we were down to just 2.
Right after the height of the season, we finally got our H-2B workers, but by then, the damage was already done.
What’s being done to fix the limitations of H-2B visas?
Congress is working on fixing this situation. Hopefully, we’ll get the Returning Worker’s Exemption back.
If nothing else, we’re hoping the limit of H-2B visas issued is increased substantially. Thanks to the Returning Worker’s Exemption ending and the severe limitation on the number of visas issued, many companies are either hanging on by a thread, or they’ve already gone out of business.
Hypothetically, if you were able to get H-2B workers, you’d use a service such as Mass Labor. This service will help you through the whole process of getting workers.
The workers come from Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Venezuela, and other countries. Sure, there’s costs involved – a few thousand dollars for each worker. However, what you get from these workers is an extremely strong work ethic.
They’re not going to complain about the heat or working long hours. If anything, they’re going to ask for more hours.
The H-2B visa is a beautiful system. The amount of work H-2B workers do coupled with the dollars per hour report you can get through your CLIP, you can become extremely profitable with minimal management on your part.