US immigration authorities have sought a number of rule changes for hiring temporary non-agricultural workers under the H-2B visa programme that may affect nationals from India.
The changes proposed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) among other things seek to deny H-2B visas to "nationals of countries that are determined to be consistently refusing or unreasonably delaying repatriation" of workers under deportation orders.
India, China and Iran are among eight countries, which have been identified by lawmakers early this year as falling in this category. Other countries are Laos, Eritrea, Vietnam, Jamaica and Ethiopia.
The eight counties are said to have refused to repatriate a total of over 139,000 workers. Of this number more than 18,000 are said to be convicted criminals who have been released back into the streets.
The proposed plans for revision of rules for the H-2B programme are based on suggestions made by US lawmakers. Early this year, three Republican legislators had called for the suspension of visas to countries that have refused to accept deported nationals from the US.
The H-2B non-immigrant temporary worker programme allows US employers to bring foreign nationals to America to fill non-agricultural temporary jobs for which US workers are not available and India is one of the countries from where workers are sought.
USCIS will accept public comments for 30 days following publication of the proposed changes.
The proposed rule is designed to remove unnecessary limitations on H-2B employers while both preventing fraud and abuse and protecting the rights of temporary workers, the USCIS announcement said.
These changes would reduce from six months to three months the time H-2B workers must wait outside the US before they are eligible to re-obtain status under the H or L classification.
They would also require employer attestations on the scope of the H-2B employment and the use of recruiters to locate H-2B workers and seek a crack down on employers and recruiters who impose fees on prospective workers in connection with or as a condition of an offer of employment.
Other changes require an approved temporary labour certification in connection with all H-2B petitions preclude, with limited exception, the change of the employment start date after the grant of such certification and require employers to notify the Department of Homeland Security when H-2B workers fail to show up for work, are terminated, or abscond from the work site.
They would also change the definition of "temporary employment" to provide that a job is of a temporary nature when the work will end in the near, definable future and to eliminate the requirement that employers show "extraordinary circumstances" to be eligible to hire H-2B workers where a one-time need for the workers is longer than one year but shorter than three years.
A land-border exit system pilot programme would be established. This would require H-2B workers admitted through a port of entry participating in the pilot H-programme to also depart through a participating port and to present designated biographic and/or biometric information upon departure.