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USCIS Proposes New Regulations for H-2A, H-2B Visa Programs

A man cutting logs in a wooded area.

​Foreign seasonal workers would be granted greater protections and more flexibility in the duration of their visas under a proposed rule from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that is scheduled for publication Sept. 20.

USCIS said that the purpose of the regulation is to modernize and improve the H-2A and H-2B visa programs and improve program efficiency. The H-2A program is for seasonal jobs in agriculture, while the H-2B program is for seasonal jobs outside of agriculture.

The public can submit comments on the proposed rule through Nov. 19.

We have gathered a collection of articles on the news from SHRM Online and other trusted sources.

Provisions of the Rule

The proposed rule would strengthen the prohibitions on employers charging unlawful fees to H-2 workers, enhance whistleblower protections for those workers and institute stricter bars against employers that violate the programs.

The proposal would also extend grace periods during which H-2 workers may seek new employment, prepare for departure from the United States or seek a change of immigration status. Workers would also gain the ability to begin new employment upon the filing of an extension of stay petition rather than upon its approval, allowing employers in need of H-2 labor to hire workers already in the United States while their paperwork is pending.

(The Federal Register)

Tandem Rules

In conjunction with the USCIS proposal, the Department of Labor (DOL) recently proposed its own regulation protecting workers with H-2A visas against retaliation, adding new protections for worker self-advocacy, making foreign labor recruitment more transparent and enhancing the department's enforcement.

(SHRM Online)

H-2A Program Gets an Overhaul

The DOL previously issued new substantive regulations amending the H-2A visa program in November 2022, changing how prevailing wages are formulated, modernizing how the application and certification process is conducted, and improving standards for employment conditions.

(SHRM Online

Call for More Protections

There are a variety of ways the U.S. government could improve labor standards for workers in the growing H-2A and H-2B visa programs, according to worker advocates.

(SHRM Online)

DHS Doubled H-2B Visas in 2023

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) doubled the number of temporary work visas used in the seasonal hospitality and landscaping industries to help employers deal with ongoing labor shortages.

(SHRM Online)


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