Anyone who is living in the U.S. on a visa or has a loved one who is knows that regulations related to immigration are always subject to change – often based on whomever is in the White House. Immigration typically isn’t a fast process, but it’s good to know what changes are being proposed, so that those who may potentially be affected by them are in a position to make truly informed decisions.
For example, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is proposing a new rule to make the H-2A and H-2B visa programs easier for employees and employers to navigate. It would also provide more protections for these visa holders.
H-2 visas allow people to work legally in the U.S. on a seasonal or other temporary basis. H-2A visas are issued to seasonal agricultural workers. H-2B visas are issued to seasonal non-agricultural workers (like those in hospitality and landscaping jobs). The need for both kinds of workers is growing significantly as businesses in Kentucky and throughout the country struggle to deal with seasonal labor shortages.
What does the proposed rule entail?
The proposed rule would benefit H-2 visa holders in various ways, including the following:
- Increasing whistleblower protections
- Extending grace periods for getting new employment when a job ends, changing immigration status and having to leave the U.S. when their visa expires
- Making it harder for employers to charge them illegal fees
The proposed rule would also minimize red tape for employers. For example, they could more easily hire workers in the U.S. on an H-2 visa whose current job is ending. This, of course, would also benefit the visa holders.
In addressing the proposed rule, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, “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.” He noted that “H-2A and H-2B temporary worker visa recipients have been essential to our seasonal and agricultural economies” for many years.
Yet, with all the promise that this proposed rule inspires, it bears repeating that immigration laws are constantly shifting, often with the political winds. As such, if you have concerns about your H-2 visa status, seeking experienced legal guidance can help you deal with the procedural intricacies of the law and better protect your rights.