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DHS H-2A & H-2B Temporary Work Visas

September 21st, 2023 at 05:57 pm

DHS H-2A & H-2B Temporary Work Visas

To update the H2 temporary visa programs and improve worker rights, DHS has released a proposed regulation. Through the H-2A temporary agricultural worker and the H-2B temporary non-agricultural worker programs, DHS has taken steps to increase protections for temporary employees.

H2 Programs

By giving participating employees more flexibility and safeguards and increasing the program’s effectiveness, DHS suggested updating and upgrading the H2 programs. This would entail enhancing safeguards against employer exploitation of employees, such as the provision of whistleblower protections.

According to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, holders of H-2A and H-2B temporary labor visas are crucial to the agricultural and seasonal sectors. Through increased program flexibility, these suggested improvements will assist American firms in addressing the labor shortfall.

Along with our partners throughout the Biden-Harris Administration, they will also assist in ensuring that this vulnerable group of employees receives the safeguards they need. DHS is dedicated to preserving our security, our economy, and our core national values. The H2 programs enable some US firms or their agents to hire foreign nationals to fill temporary positions for which there are insufficient US workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available.

A certification from the Department of Labor stating why qualified US workers are not available to fill the job opportunity and why a foreign worker’s employment will not negatively affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed workers in the United States must be submitted with the form i-129 petition for a non-immigrant worker on behalf of the prospective employee.

H-2 Visa Violations

To strengthen program integrity and better safeguard vulnerable employees, companies who breach H-2B program rules, such as those who can’t or won’t fulfill the program’s requirements, may lose their eligibility for one of the few visas that are still available. The proposed regulation would safeguard employees from accruing exploitation debts and stop abuse by clarifying the prohibitions on employer-imposed fees and the repercussions of such prohibited fees being collected from H2 workers at any time by employers or recruiters.

By lengthening Grace periods for looking for other employment, getting ready to leave the country, or applying for a change in immigration status, DHS is recommending greater flexibility for H2 workers. This will provide clarity and give employees more flexibility, mobility, and protection.

Making H2 portability permanent would enable firms who are experiencing a labor shortage to hire H2 workers who were previously legally present in the country while the employer’s H-2 petition for the worker is still being processed. This policy would also provide employers with several other benefits.

In recent years, the H2 programs have grown significantly. In keeping with its overarching plan to manage lawful, humane, and orderly immigration to this nation and to solve the labor shortages that US businesses are currently experiencing, the Biden-Harris Administration has increased access to the H2 programs.

H-2B Worker Visa Updates

The demand for H2B visas rises as the US struggles with a labor shortage. The tremendous demand for H-2B visas has been seen as another evidence that this very successful program needs to be expanded to keep up with the demand for workers. Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the United States Travel Association, said this.

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There are around 10 million employment opportunities in the US economy overall, with 1.4 million of those in the leisure and hospitality industry. Simply put, there are not enough American workers to fill open positions. According to the US Department of Labor, there were more H-2B requests than there were visas available for the first half of the year.

Non-agricultural temporary employees are the focus of the H-2B visa program. Employers in the US who are unable to hire workers locally may be able to do so abroad thanks to the H-2B visa program. The following are some of the industries that can employ H-2B workers:

  • Hospitality
  • Resorts and Theme Parks
  • Construction
  • Ski resorts and water parks
  • Warehouses
  • Retail stores
  • Sports and Athletics

For the fiscal year 2023, the US Departments of Homeland Security and Labor increased the number of H-2B visas available from 66,000 to 130,716 overall. To help American firms prepare for their peak season labor demands, the administration is making additional H-2B visas accessible earlier than previously.

USCIS Announcement

The extra H-2B cap for returning employees for the first half of this fiscal year has been surpassed, according to USCIS. Four categories make up the additional temporary non-agricultural working visas;

  • First, returning workers may only apply for 18,216 of the available visas in the first half of this year.
  • The early second part of fiscal year 2023, from April 1 to May 14, will only allow 16,500 visas for returning workers.
  • Additionally, from May 15 to September 30, 2010, only 10,000 visas were available for returning workers.
  • Finally, 20,000 visas will be reserved for residents of the following nations during the entire fiscal year 2023. Holders of the H-2B visa from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti are also permitted to bring their spouses and children under the age of 21.

US Immigration Processing Update (Congregational Inquiry)

Inquiries to Congress could prove able to reduce immigration processing backlogs. Long processing durations are frequently standard practice for anyone applying for immigration benefits. These protracted processing delays may be expected, but there are instances where a petitioner or applicant wants to move a case along quickly.

One option is to get help with a pending application from a US legislative office.

Reasons to Make a Congressional Inquiry

In certain circumstances, a congressional investigation may serve as a beneficial instrument.

  • First and foremost, if a person’s application for US citizenship or immigration has been pending for a longer period than typical, a congressional representative may ask for action on the application or information regarding the processing hold.
  • A congressional representative may also ask for expedited processing of an application if someone else has prompted them to do so.
  • Delays in visa processing at US Consular Posts can potentially be resolved with the cooperation of Congress.

How to Find and Contact Your Congressional Representatives

In the US Congo Congress, an individual most likely has two senators, one congressman, and three representatives. On the webpage of, under the section titled “current members of Congress,” you may find the US senators for each state. The US House of Representatives also includes individual representatives.

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Contacting more than one congressional representative at once is typically not a good idea. Following the guidelines on the office’s website for contacting the representative, a person should contact the congressional office they have chosen.

A congressional inquiry could prove a helpful tool if someone is dealing with unusually long processing timelines or other problems linked to the status of an immigration application or petition. In the correct situations, a constituent’s congressional representative can offer support, aid in the progress of the file, or respond with an explanation for the delay.

Immigration Reform with Bipartisan Bill | H-2B Reform

Details of the prospective bipartisan Dignity Act immigration reform and its effects on employees who are citizens are detailed below.

The Dignity Act Executive Summary

The comprehensive immigration bill “the Dignity Act” of 2023 was recently submitted to the House. Its goals include reducing illegal migration, providing a solution for undocumented individuals, strengthening the American workforce, and expanding the US economy. To qualify for the Dignity Program and obtain work permits, undocumented immigrants must fulfill various conditions. This includes “restitution” payment to the American Worker Fund to support the reskilling of native-born employees.

Therefore, the American worker fund’s influence would probably be fairly little. However, this requires legislative compromise to enact comprehensive immigration reform and win support from both parties. The Dignity Act of 2023, a comprehensive and bipartisan immigration bill with the objectives of halting illegal immigration, offering a solution to undocumented immigrants currently living in the US, bolstering the American Workforce, and expanding the US economy, recently unveiled by Maria Elvira Salazar.

The majority of the labor provisions in the bill, such as reforms to the H-2A and H-2B guest worker programs and the expansion of employment-based visa options, are certainly all important but are not very novel ideas.

Workforce Development Initiatives

The Workforce Development initiatives have a track record of ineffectiveness and expected to have a negligible positive effect on workers (citizens). This kind of legislative compromise anticipated an address and a perspective that immigration reform ought to augment but not displace native-born labor, making the measure more likely to get bipartisan support. It may be crucial to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

The Dignity Act would establish the seven-year dignity program. Unauthorized immigrants who have resided in the country for more than five years receive a work permit and immunity from deportation proceedings.

With all US rules followed, applicants must pass a background check, pay back taxes, and begin paying income taxes. Individuals would also be liable for $5,000 in “restitution” over the length of the program in addition to an initial punishment.

Following completion of the Dignity Program, participants must choose whether to maintain their dignity status, which allows them to work, dwell, and travel, or sign up for the Redemption Program, which requires an extra $5,000 payment or 200 hours of national community service.

Impact on Native-born Workers

The “restitution” payments demanded under the Dignity and Redemption schemes would go toward an American worker fund that would provide grants to support workforce development programs and apprenticeships. At least one native-born worker might receive training or retraining for employment or career transfer for every $5,000 payout.

Over 79% (8.7 million) of long-term undocumented residents qualify for the program. Even if all eligible undocumented immigrants enroll, only 5.2% of native-born workers can receive training. Table 1 estimates the proportion of retrainable native-born workers based on program enrollment. Historically, Federal Workforce Development programs have shown limited effectiveness, potentially reducing training benefits.

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A 2017 Department of Labor analysis found primary job training programs unsatisfactory for employers and job seekers. They were inefficient at raising salaries and had statistically insignificant impacts on estimates. Federally financed training reduced earnings by $638 in high-unemployment areas and increased them by $246 in low-unemployment areas.

A 2019 Council of Economic Advisors report supported this finding. Job training programs, except for the Registered Apprenticeship Program, lack sufficient benefits to justify their costs.

The overall distribution of the Dignity Program’s beneficial impact on Undocumented vs. Native-born Workers

Conservatives stress workforce development to mitigate the potential displacement of native-born workers by immigration. The American Worker Fund supports this perspective, increasing bipartisan support for future immigration reform.

Besides that, the Dignity Program’s offer is a political compromise in immigration reform. It may serve as a model for future bipartisan legislation. However, it’s unlikely to significantly impact the retraining of native-born employees. The clause aims to gain sufficient support for comprehensive immigration reform. It anticipates and addresses the perspective that immigration should supplement native-born labor

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