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Department of Labor issues new visa rule

H-2B program benefits extended to U.S. workers

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a new final rule governing the H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker program that the agency said will give U.S. workers greater protections and job access.

The H-2B program allows foreign workers to obtain temporary visas to take positions for which qualified U.S. workers are not available, and where the foreign workers’ employment will not adversely affect U.S. workers’ wages or working conditions.

The rule, to be published in the Feb. 21 edition of the Federal Register, includes changes to several aspects of the program, including the creation of a national registry for all H-2B job postings and an increase in the amount of time during which U.S. workers must be recruited. The rule also requires former employees be rehired where possible.

In addition, the rule will extend H-2B program benefits, such as transportation costs and wages, to U.S. workers performing substantially the same work as guest workers.

The rule will go into effect April 23.

“The H-2B program is designed to help businesses when there is a temporary shortage of U.S. workers,” according to a statement attributed to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. “The rule … will ensure that the program is used as intended by making these jobs more accessible to U.S. workers and providing stronger protections for every worker.”

According to the statement announcing the rule, agency officials tried to respond to comments submitted by employers expressing concerns about the rule by giving companies greater flexibility and certainty throughout the application and recruitment processes and also by improving U.S. workers’ access to jobs.

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