US Labour Department to keep new H2-B visa changes
The US government will make permanent its changes to a visa program that brings foreign workers to the United States for temporary nonagricultural work.world Updated: Dec 18, 2008 11:31 IST
The US government will make permanent its changes to a visa program that brings foreign workers to the United States for temporary nonagricultural work.
The aim is to streamline and simplify the application process and increase worker protections, Labour Secretary Elaine Chao said in an interview on Wednesday.
The H2-B visa program allows foreign workers into the United States for specific seasonal jobs, provided the employer cannot find Americans for the work, and the foreigners return home within 10 months. Workers in the program must pass background checks, and the visas have provisions to ensure they return home.
The visa program is capped at 66,000 workers per year, who are placed mostly in landscaping, hospitality and other industries.
Changes include eliminating duplicative applications at the state and federal levels, requiring employers to attest, under threat of fines and disbarment, that they follow all rules and let the government decide what workers should earn.
Employers will be prohibited from passing along the cost of the new proposals to their workers, and the Labour Department, for the first time, will be able to enforce terms and conditions of temporary foreigner employment and impose fines on violators.
The Homeland Security Department currently is responsible for enforcing the regulations, but the Labor Department has more expertise in the area, Chao said. The Labor Department also will become the final word on labor certification applications.
The final changes will be in the Federal Register tomorrow and go into effect in mid-January.