The Wage and Hour Division of the Employment and Training Administration, a section of the U.S. Department of Labor, announced a final improvement to the H-2B foreign non-agricultural labor certification program. The rule will alter multiple features of the program with the aims of ensuring that American workers gain better access to jobs and receive stronger employee protections.
The H-2B program grants permission to foreign workers to work in the U.S. temporarily if no U.S. workers are available and the work does not affect the wages and working conditions of American laborers. The program has a current visa cap of 66,000 per year.
In a response to feedback from employers and employee advocates, the department altered the plan to offer more flexibility throughout the recruitment and applications processes and enhance job access to American citizens. The final rule generates a national registry for job postings eligible for H-2B participation and extends the time frame required for recruiting U.S. workers. Additionally, the rule stipulates that former employees must be rehired when available before offering the work to foreign laborers.
The H-2B program also extends benefits, such as transportation cost and wages, to American laborers performing work similar to that of foreign H-2B workers. The rule goes into effect on April 23, 2012. Speaking about the H-2B roll-out, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said, “The rule announced today 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.”