25 October 2006

USCIS announces H-2B returning worker cap exemption

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The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have announced that the “returning worker” exemption to the H-2B numerical limitation has been extended for the fiscal year 2007.

The extension to the H-2B program was inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act that was recently signed by President Bush, and allows businesses that have participated in the program over the previous three years to bring back prior H-2B holders, and free up more H-2B visas for new workers.

Congress set the H-2B Visa cap at 66,000 for the new fiscal year, which without the extension for current and previous holders of the visa would have placed pressure on businesses that depend on seasonal foreign workers to fill jobs, particularly in the hospitality, agricultural and landscaping industries.

H-2B visas allow foreigners to work in the United States for less than a year at a time.

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who authored the provision to extend the H-2B "returning worker" exemption, believes American workers would have suffered if the extension had not been passed.

"I have been fighting for years to help good guy businesses and workers wade through the unfair procedures that were part of the H-2B visa process," the Senator said.

"This extension protects workers, and gives us another congressional session to keep up the fight until we make this cap exemption permanent!

"Without these seasonal workers, many businesses would not survive - forced to limit services, lay off permanent U.S. workers or, worse yet, close their doors."

The H-2B extension rewards immigrants who abide by the conditions of the visa and return to their home countries by offering them the opportunity to return, whilst protecting the rights of American workers by requiring employers to give them preference before hiring immigrants.

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