Articles Posted in H-2A

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we bring you the latest immigration news for the week.

USCIS Announces Workload Transfers

In an effort to manage heavy workloads, increase efficiency, and decrease processing times, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been transferring cases between service centers.

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In this blog post, we would like to remind our readers that today is the last day to submit a public comment on the USCIS proposed rule increasing immigration fees for certain petitions. Initially USCIS had set a 30-day comment period ending on December 16, 2019, however the comment period was later extended for two more weeks, ending today December 30, 2019.

Once the comment period has closed, USCIS will review all public comments and publish a final rule in the Federal Register which will contain the rule’s effective date of implementation.

The filing fees for the following petitions would increase substantially under the proposed rule:

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The House of Representatives recently made a bold move that could give undocumented farmworkers a pathway to permanent residence.

Yesterday, December 11, 2019, by a vote of 260-165, the House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a progressive bill that if approved by the Senate, would create several exciting opportunities for undocumented farmworkers as well as U.S. employers.

What does the Bill propose?

The bill would allow existing agricultural workers in the United States to legalize their status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the United States economy.

Which workers would be eligible for Permanent Resident Status?

Earned Pathway to Legalization

  • Individuals who have worked in agriculture in the U.S. for at least 10 years before enactment of the bill, must continue to work for at least 4 more years in agriculture on Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status before being eligible to apply for permanent residence OR
  • Individuals who have worked in agriculture in the U.S. for less than 10 years, must work at least 8 more years in agriculture on CAW status before being eligible to apply for permanent residence
    • Applicants who qualify based on one of these criteria would be required to pay a $1,000 fine

In addition, the bill would:

  • Create a new temporary worker visa program for current unauthorized farmworkers called Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status. CAW visas would be renewable and five-and-a-half years in length. The number of CAW visas would be uncapped.
  • Establish eligibility requirements of the CAW visa.Unauthorized immigrants who have spent at least 180 days of the last two years in agricultural employment would be eligible for the Certified Agricultural Worker Visa.
  • With few exceptions, applicants must meet existing work visa admissibility requirements to be eligible and must pass a criminal background check.
  • Felons and those who have been convicted of multiple misdemeanors (two or more offenses of moral turpitude or three offenses in general) would not be eligible.

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Every year USCIS receives and adjudicates approximately 6 million applications from foreign nationals seeking to immigrate to the United States, and U.S. companies seeking to employ foreign workers temporarily.  According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics, “an estimated 13.1 million lawful permanent residents (LPRs) were living in the United States on January 1, 2013.” Of these permanent residents, more than half–8.8 million–were eligible to apply for naturalization. Additionally, the United States issues approximately 700,000 temporary non-immigrant work visas for a variety of temporary workers including: highly skilled foreign workers employed in specialty occupations in the STEM fields, fashion models, internationally acclaimed athletes and entertainers, aliens of extraordinary ability, religious workers, intra-company transferees, treaty traders/investors, foreign media workers, and agricultural and seasonal workers.

The reason the issuance of temporary worker visas is so low, when compared to the issuance of permanent resident cards, is because most of the temporary foreign worker visa programs are subject to a congressional cap, that limits the amount of non-immigrants that can be admitted per fiscal year. Additionally, certain temporary nonimmigrant worker visa classifications are granted for a specified period of time, although in most cases at least one extension may be granted. The cap applies primarily to the H nonimmigrant worker classifications, and non-minister religious workers. The H visa category accounts for approximately 54% of all visas issued for temporary workers. That is why the H visas are the most talked about visas among politicians when discussing immigration reform. The cap does not apply to treaty traders/investors, aliens of extraordinary ability, intra-company transferees, NAFTA professionals (Canada and Mexico), and foreign media workers. In comparison to developed countries, the United States admits a relatively low number of temporary foreign workers. Foreign workers are typically admitted either to fill labor shortages in the American job market, or because of their exceptional, or highly technical skills, as is the case for the H-1B visa classification.  Only highly skilled foreign nationals, aliens of extraordinary ability, aliens holding advanced degrees, high capital investors, nurses and physical therapists, doctors in undeserved area, and recipients of national interest waivers, have the unique opportunity to obtain permanent residence based on employment.

The mammoth task of meaningful immigration reform will not be easy and it will not happen overnight. The presidential nominees have failed to outline a clear strategy to overhaul our immigration system. None of the presidential candidates have addressed the most contentious areas of immigration policy that must be revised, in order to repair our broken immigration system.

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Beginning February 19, 2016 certain nonimmigrant Caribbean residents seeking admission to the United States as H-2A agricultural workers, will be required to obtain a valid passport and valid H-2B visa in order to be admitted. Spouses and children traveling with an H-2A agricultural worker will also be required to present a valid passport and H-2A visa. The H-2A nonimmigrant visa exception for Caribbean residents was first introduced during World War II in an effort to address labor shortages in the American workforce. The change, comes as part of the revised 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which eliminates the nonimmigrant visa exception for these individuals, along with other provisions that impact the H-2B nonagricultural visa program. The new rule will apply to nationals of the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and nationals of Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, who either maintain a residence in a territory governed by England, France, or the Netherlands located in the adjacent islands of the Caribbean, or maintain a residence in Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, or Trinidad and Tobago. The change was validated in yesterday’s Federal Register by the Department of State and Homeland Security respectively. Removal of this visa exemption will allow the Department of State to properly screen individuals prior to their arrival in the United States, and further protect agricultural workers from employment violations and work related abuse. To learn more about the H-2A visa program click here.

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9319698471_083278482d_zThis week USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the addition of sixteen new countries that will be eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs next year. Nationals from the following countries: Andorra, Belgium, Brunei, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan, and Timor-Leste will join sixty-eight other countries already participating in the H-2A and H-2B programs. Foreign nationals from these countries can apply for the H-2A and H-2B programs beginning January 18, 2016. If a country fails to meet the requirements for continued designation of these benefits, DHS reserves the right to remove any country from the list of eligibility, as it did recently with the country of Moldova and the H-2B program. Moldova may still continue to participate in the H-2A program since it has proven compliant with the necessary standards regulating the H-2A program. USCIS may consider other foreign nationals for the H-2A and H-2B programs even if their countries do not participate in these programs on a case by case basis.

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