On January 18, 2009, the U.S. Government posted brand new regulations regarding the H-2B Visa. Many have criticized this proposed rule for imposing stiffer requirements and increased costs on employers who are trying to hire a legal workforce through the H-2B program, while at the same time failing to provide a sound method for strong enforcement against employers that hire unauthorized aliens.
Department of Homeland Security recognizes these concerns; however, compliance measures included in this rule making are necessary to ensure the integrity of the H-2B program and to protect workers’ rights.
The H2B program helps to save full-time, year-round jobs held by Americans by supplementing the workforce with seasonal, temporary workers. Since many Americans do not want these seasonal jobs, businesses are forced to hire foreign workers, who are ready and willing to fill empty seasonal temporary positions.
One of the major changes initiated in the new rule is the inability for any recruiter, agent, attorney or employer to charge the H2B worker a fee that is conditional upon receiving a job offer for H2B employment.
In the past, potential workers would pay recruiters to find them jobs and handle the massive amounts of paperwork that went with the visa program for the state work-force agency, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. State Department. The employees were happy to pay because they had guaranteed work when they got here. Now the recruiters are looking for money from the employers and that’s an expense owners didn’t budget for and can’t really afford at this time.”
With the restricted number of visas, the soaring cost of legal petitions, the high rate of H2B visa refusals, as well as the recently enacted law that forbids charging the H2B applicants for the immigration and job-finding services, has made many employers withdraw from filing for H2B workers last season.
Paul Monte, general manager and CEO of Gurney’s Inn Resort, Spa and Conference Center in Montauk, New York said: The program is constantly changing and constantly becoming more onerous and hard to follow,” “I’m sure the intent is to legislate the program out of existence. It’s being labeled as an immigration program when it’s not—it’s a labor program. The people are very happy working for their contracted time and going home. They don’t come here with the intention of staying”.
“When the program is monitored by employers that follow the rules, it’s a wonderful program,” Monte added.
The program is vital to keep the industry going, said Shawn McBurney, senior vice president for governmental affairs for the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
“When you get visa workers, you’re able to operate at full capacity, making more revenue and allowing the hotel to retain full-time workers year round,” McBurney said. “If you don’t have visa workers, you can’t operate at full capacity, and that puts full-time workers at risk.”
Despite the above, there is expected to be a shortage of American workers for the foreseeable future, even with the high rate of unemployment in the United States.
Although the H2B market is slower than usual E-JAM and many other people in the industry believe that the H2B program will improve tremendously by 2010. E-JAM has also increased its recruitment efforts in both Canada and the United Kingdom.
Excerpts from articles by:
Elaine Yetzer Simon - H2B Portal – Coalition Sapochnick