The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is proposing a new regulation that would make the H-2A and H-2B visa programs for seasonal and other temporary workers more efficient and easier for workers as well as employers to navigate. It would also provide greater protections for those who need these visas to work in the U.S.
As our readers may know, H-2A visas are for seasonal agricultural workers. H-2B visas are for seasonal non-agricultural jobs. The need for both types of visas is increasing.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the USCIS, the number of H-2B visas for those in hospitality and landscaping has doubled this year as these industries struggle to deal with seasonal labor shortages.
Some provisions of the proposed rule
The proposed rule would, among other things, do the following:
- Make it more difficult for employers to charge these visa holders illegal fees
- Increase whistleblower protections
- Extend the grace periods for obtaining new employment, changing immigration status or leaving the U.S. after the visa expires
The provisions in the proposed rule would also make it easier for employers to hire workers who are already in the country on an H-2 visa whose employment has ended.
This is all part of a larger effort that also involves the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to protect the workers in these visa programs from retaliation if they speak out about violations and to lessen those employer violations. The DOL implemented new regulations to the H-2A visa program last year.
“New program flexibilities”
As for the proposed rule, which the public has 60 days to comment on before it is finalized, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says, “For years, H-2A and H-2B temporary worker visa recipients have been essential to our seasonal and agricultural economies. These proposed reforms will help U.S. employers address worker shortages through new program flexibilities. They will also help provide this vulnerable population of workers with the protections they deserve. “
If you or a loved one has questions or concerns about their current H-2 visa or about getting one, having experienced legal guidance to maneuver the ever-changing immigration landscape can make a big difference.