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U.S. Guest Worker Programs

The United States has various visa programs aimed at letting foreign nationals work in the United States for a period of time. The two main guest worker programs for low skilled jobs are the H-2A program and the H-2B program. The H-2A program is for workers who take up temporary agricultural work, and H-2B program is for workers who will take up temporary nonagricultural work.

Employers usually recruit guest workers, some of whom may already be in the United States, for temporary work usually meant to be for less than a year. In order to obtain visas under these guest worker programs and allow foreign workers to legally work in the United States, the employer has to show that the need for the worker is temporary. The employer also has to show that there are not enough U.S workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available meet the need. The guest worker visas issued under H-2A and H-2B do not lead to legal permanent residence.

Because of the way the programs are set up, there have been reports of major abuses of immigrant workers by the employers and contractors who supply the workers to employers. These abuses generally relate to workplace abuses, such as time and pay issues, and even sexual harassment. In some cases, workers are also cheated out of large sums of money by contractors and recruiters who assure them that the guest worker programs lead to green cards or lawful permanent residence.

Unfortunately, most temporary guest workers do not know that they have rights even as temporary workers in the United States. Having these rights means that when employers do not pay the applicable minimum wage, cheat their workers out of hours worked, or engage in other employment abuses, the workers can sue or file complaints to enforce their rights.

For most workers who do know or are at least aware of their employment rights, there is a fear that they will not continue to get work after they complain or file a lawsuit. An employee generally cannot be fired for filing a lawsuit to enforce employment rights. However, employers under the guest worker program can terminate an employee at any time, which leads to the employee losing his visa and ability to stay in the country illegally. Employees who are fired in this way can still file lawsuits to enforce their rights against abusive employers.

If you are an immigrant looking to work in the United States under a guest worker program or any other employment visa category, you should do as much research as possible before signing on with a contractor or employee. Ask around in your community for any information about a prospective employer before you take on the job. While having an opportunity to work legally in the United States may seem an attractive offer, if you are working for the wrong person, it can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Contact us for Legal Assistance

If you need assistance with a visa application or immigration status change, an experienced immigration attorney may be able to assist you. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California and schedule a consultation.


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