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Political debate over H-2B guest worker visas intensifies

California residents may be aware that immigration authorities sometimes grant visas to foreign workers who possess specialized training or qualifications, but they may not know that a similar program exists for those who want to enter the United Sates to perform low-paying jobs that require few skills. Workers entering the country on the H-2B visa program are allowed to remain in America for three years, and employers in the hospitality and services sector often say that the program helps their businesses by allowing them to keep their prices competitive.

The number of H-2B visas issued each year was set at 66,000 for many years, but that number surged to 264,000 during 2015 budget negotiations. Immigration is generally a divisive issue in the nation's capital, but legislators from both sides of the aisle have urged Congress not to return H-2B visa numbers to their previous levels. On April 26, nine members of the House of Representatives sent a letter on the subject to the House Committee on Appropriations.

Some of those opposed to the program say that H-2B visas hurt the economy by keeping wages low while denying opportunities to unskilled American workers. Others approve of the program but feel that more protections should be provided for the foreign nationals who obtain H-2B guest worker visas.

Some immigrants choose to enter the country illegally because they feel that they would not qualify for a visa or green card. The H-2B guest worker program shows that even those without highly sought-after skills may live and work legally in the United States, but dealing with immigration authorities can be a frustrating experience for those unaccustomed to American bureaucracy. An immigration lawyer can outline the steps involved in securing a visa and help clients to avoid common pitfalls such as missing strict deadlines or submitting incorrect or insufficient documentation.

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber