FIRST ON FOX: The Biden administration is considering a rule that would open the door to allow temporary agricultural and seasonal workers to apply for permanent residency in the United States, Fox News Digital has learned.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) previously announced that it plans to issue a notice of rulemaking to “modernize and reform” the H-2A and H-2B visas – used for temporary agricultural workers and laborers temporary seasonal.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has said the rule will incorporate policies to combat exploitation and abuse, protect workers and increase program efficiencies.
Fox has now learned that the rulemaking process, which is still going through the USCIS review process, would allow workers on those visas to take steps to become permanent residents and obtain a green card.
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When workers come to the US on temporary visas (or “non-immigrant” visas), they are expected to come with the intention of returning to their home countries when their visas expire. However, some visas allow foreign nationals to pursue a green card at the same time, which is known as “dual intent.”
H-2A and H-2B visas expressly disallow dual intent, stating that workers must return home after completing their work period. But that would change as part of this rule, if moved forward.
“The (rulemaking process) also proposes to provide increased flexibility for H-2 workers by extending grace periods, and allowing H-2 workers to take steps toward becoming permanent residents of the United States without being considered They abandoned their non-immigrant intent. or their residence abroad on that basis alone,” says a summary of the proposal, seen by Fox Digital.
The rule change would be in line with the Biden administration’s promise to open more legal immigration paths for those who want to come to the US, through the southern border and elsewhere.
The rule would also strengthen prohibitions on immigration fees being collected from H-2 workers by their employers through salary reductions, and would introduce factors by which a petition could be denied based on disciplinary actions taken against an employer by a government agency such as USCIS or . the Department of Labour. It is also envisioned that the regulation allows workers to start working immediately after the USCIS receives their petition, rather than only when the visa itself is approved.
In response to a request for comment from Fox News Digital, a USCIS spokesperson said the agency is “committed to promoting policies and procedures that break down barriers in the immigration system, increase access to eligible immigration benefits, improve protections for workers temporary nonimmigrants, and better ensure the integrity of the H-2A and H-2B programs, and the agency will continue to uphold America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibility with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.”
Efforts to reform H-2 visas are not unique to the Biden administration. The Trump administration finally announced an incomplete decision-making process to add more flexibility and stop abuse of the H-2A system, while strengthening protections for American workers.
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The H-2B visa, intended for workers in seasonal occupations such as landscaping and hotel and restaurant work, has been controversial with both Republicans and Democrats expressing concerns about the abuse of vulnerable foreign workers and concerns that encourages employers to use cheap labor instead of hiring American workers. Congress has limited the number of H-2B visas to 66,000 per year, but it allows DHS to exceed the limit – which it usually does.
However, including a way to allow H-2 workers to gain permanent US residency is likely to be controversial among immigration hawks, fearing the programs are used to import cheap labor that competes with US workers. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) says the move would increase reliance on foreign labor and harm American workers, as it says for other visas – such as the H-1B for occupations specialty, used mainly by the. technology industry.
“The apparent desire of foreign nationals to obtain the H-1B visa – primarily because it can lead to permanent residency – has encouraged unscrupulous outsourcing practices while strengthening employers’ reliance on free foreign labor ,” FAIR President Dan Stein said in a statement to Fox. . “By turning two additional guest worker programs into de facto permanent immigration streams, the Biden administration is doing so to the detriment of American workers, even during a time of economic uncertainty.”
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Stein said the administration “needs to rethink this proposed rule and instead help struggling American workers compete with cheap foreign labor.”
Meanwhile, the administration is facing lawsuits from Republican states over measures it announced last month that would allow 30,000 migrants from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua into the United States each month. Those states filed a request for a preliminary injunction this week.