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Spending bill proposes H2-B visa expansion

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The U.S. House of Representatives is reviewing a spending bill that includes an extension of the H-2B visa program. Immigrants and companies in Maryland may benefit from low-skilled temporary workers being allowed to stay longer in the United States under the proposal.

According to data from the Department of Labor, Texas employers were successful when they petitioned the agency in 2014 to allow more than 14,000 foreign workers to be employed for jobs as part of the H-2B visa program. This was the highest number of hires for a state, with Florida employers gaining the second-most hires at 6,477. H-2B visas allow employers to employ low-skilled temporary workers to occupy non-agricultural positions, and they are intended to help companies find employees for positions that are hard to fill.

Of the applications that the DOL approved in 2014, about 35,000 were for groundskeepers and landscapers, and 6,000 of them were for Texas employers. The classifications of the positions that employers petitioned for varied according to state. Most employers in North Dakota and Alaska, for example, sought fish, meat and poultry trimmers. Most Connecticut employers sought scouts and coaches for young children and teens who played in private sports leagues.

The DOL classified the most popular jobs petitioned for as helpers and production workers. This allowed construction companies, factories and slaughterhouses to employ helpers, which are less skilled employees who are paid even less than apprentices on the same job.

The process for obtaining approval on an H-2B visa application is lengthy. First, the DOL certifies the application. Then, the Department of Homeland Security processes the application before the foreign offices in the Department of State do the same.

Some immigrants may be qualified for temporary worker visas, and they must have employers to sponsor them and must complete several procedures to obtain approval. Since the process is so complex, potential temporary workers could seek the help of immigration attorneys.

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