Foodservice Equipment Reports

…And Documenting Workers Gets Tougher With Proposed Changes To Visa Program

The program that provides workers documentation in the form of visas for foodservice operations to fill jobs is now a point of controversy as well. The National Restaurant Association is blasting a proposed rewrite of rules governing the H-2B visa system, which it says could make it nearly impossible for restaurants to use the popular program.

The 25-year-old system allots 66,000 visas a year for businesses to use to recruit workers from outside the United States to fill temporary or seasonal jobs when they are unable to locate enough American workers to fill these critical positions. Restaurants in rural or resort areas are big users of the H-2B program, as are smaller employers located far from major population centers.

In March, the Labor Department proposed major changes, including new rules requiring employers to continue to recruit American workers up to three days before their H-2B employees are scheduled to start work; apply restrictive H-2B work rules to non-H-2B workers whose tasks overlap with H-2B employees; and set extensive new requirements for employers to apply for visas. Some experts say the new application and review procedures could triple the time it takes the federal government to process applications.

In comments filed May 18 with the Labor Dept., the NRA said that the proposed changes, combined with new rules on calculating pay for H-2B workers, could render the program "virtually unusable by all but the largest and wealthiest companies.”

The consequences for U.S. workers will be exactly the opposite of what is intended, according to the ImmigrationWorks report included with the NRA’s comments. “Rather than opening jobs for Americans and improving their working conditions, the new rule will force many H-2B employers to downsize or close, shedding U.S. jobs and generating less economic activity up- and downstream in the local economy."

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