In a letter to ANLA members, Craig Regelbrugge, vice president for government relations and research at the association, said the changes to the H-2B program will “effectively slash the safety net that many landscape professionals and other seasonal employers turn to when they cannot find enough seasonal workers.”
Regelbrugge said experts fear that the new rules will render the program unworkable. The changes, published on Feb. 21, will take effect 60 days later.
Changes to the program include:
The maximum term of employment for an H-2B worker is shortened from 10 months to nine.
A streamlined “attestation” process established in 2008 will be scuttled and replaced with two separate approval processes; the first requires the employer to register and prove a seasonal or peak employment need, and the second involves a lengthy and cumbersome application for a labor certification and more extensive recruitment efforts.
Employers must pay H-2B workers in-bound and outbound transportation costs, subsistence costs, visa and other costs. This requirement also applies to U.S. workers who do not live near the place of employment. If lodging is provided by H-2B workers, the same lodging must be provided to U.S. workers who do not live near the workplace.
The H-2B workers must be given full time work, defined as more than 35 hours per week.
The H-2B program allows the entry of foreign workers into the United States on a temporary basis when qualified U.S. workers are not available, and the employment of those foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers. The H-2B program is limited by law to a cap of 66,000 visas per year.
“The H-2B program is designed to help businesses when there is a temporary shortage of U.S. workers,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “The rule announced today (Feb. 15) 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.”