landscaping worker

Unpacking the H-2B Visa Application Process: A Cautionary Tale from Lawn Groomers Inc.

The intricacies of the H-2B visa application process can often be a daunting journey for U.S. businesses seeking to employ foreign workers temporarily. A recent decision by a U.S. Department of Labor judge brings to light the critical importance of clarity and relevance in supporting documentation for such applications. This ruling serves as a pivotal lesson for businesses navigating the complexities of immigration law, particularly in the context of nonagricultural temporary labor.

Lawn Groomers Inc., a landscaping company, found itself at the center of judicial scrutiny when it submitted a 200-page application for H-2B visa workers without a clear narrative explaining the relevance of the documents. Administrative Law Judge Christine Hilleren-Wilkins criticized the company for expecting the department to sift through the voluminous submission without a direct explanation of its connection to the work request. The judge emphasized that the employer could not reasonably expect the certifying officer (CO) to piece together extensive documents to establish a temporary need in the absence of a specific explanation supporting its position.

The judge's remarks underscore the necessity for applicants to provide a coherent narrative that links the supporting documents directly to their application's core claims. In the case of Lawn Groomers, the company aimed to hire 120 landscape workers through the H-2B visa program, citing a peak-load need that the local labor market could not fulfill. However, the certifying officer denied the application, finding that Lawn Groomers failed to convincingly establish this temporary need or justify the number of workers requested.

Further complicating Lawn Groomers' case was the apparent disproportion between the number of permanent employees and the requested temporary workers, which seemed to "dwarf" the company's permanent workforce. This discrepancy raised additional questions about the legitimacy of the company's claimed temporary need, highlighting the importance of substantiating such claims with clear and relevant documentation.

The judge's decision not to consider a supplemental brief from Lawn Groomers further illustrates the stringent adherence to procedural regulations in the H-2B application process. The relevant regulation, 20 C.F.R. § 655.61, was interpreted strictly by Judge Hilleren-Wilkins, who emphasized that the regulation did not mandate the acceptance of additional submissions after the initial review request.

This case serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance of precision and clarity in the H-2B visa application process. Businesses must ensure that their documentation is not only comprehensive but also directly relevant to their application's specific claims. The Lawn Groomers Inc. case highlights the potential pitfalls of inadequate documentation and the importance of providing a clear narrative that ties the supporting evidence directly to the claimed temporary need for foreign workers.

For potential clients seeking to navigate the H-2B visa application process, this case underscores the importance of meticulous preparation and clarity in documentation. As an experienced immigration attorney and former immigration officer, I understand the complexities of this process and the critical need for detailed, coherent, and relevant application materials. This case illustrates the challenges businesses may face and the importance of expert legal guidance in navigating the immigration system's intricacies.

In conclusion, the Lawn Groomers Inc. case is a cautionary tale for businesses embarking on the H-2B visa application journey. It emphasizes the need for clear, coherent, and relevant documentation in establishing the temporary need for foreign workers. As we continue to assist clients with their immigration needs, let us take this case as a learning opportunity to refine our approach and ensure the success of future applications.


Alyssa Aquino, "Judge Pans 'Voluminous' H-2B Request With Little Explanation," Law360, February 27, 2024.

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