Forest Owner Alert

The vast majority of trees planted on timberland in the Southeast are planted by seasonal migrant H2B workers. On September 30, 2007 the Returning Worker Exemption under the annual cap for H2B visas expired. On October 1, 2007 the federal government announced that the H2B visa cap for the first half of fiscal 2008 had been filled. No more visas will be available for workers whose jobs begin in November, December, or later. This means an unprecedented shortage of legal workers to reforest our timberlands this planting season.

What You Can Do

Immediately contact your Congressman and both Senators. Ask them to support the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2007.This bill, H.R. 1843 in the House, and S.988 in the Senate, only returns the H2B visa program to the same status it has had since 2005. Workers who have come to the U.S. on H2B visas in the last 3 years are not counted toward the annual cap of 66,000 H2B visas. This bill returns the program to only counting new workers toward the cap.

U. S. Senators:

U. S. House of Representatives:

The H2B Visa Program

1. H2B workers are temporary non-agricultural workers who enter the country for seasonal work. After a maximum stay of 10 months they must return to their home country. H2B is a temporary guest worker program, not an immigration program.

2. The U.S. Department of Labor certifies that each H2B employer hires every interested and available American worker before a single visa is granted. No American jobs are lost.

3. H2B employers must offer and pay the prevailing wage to both American workers and H2B workers. In Alabama that wage is $9.75/hour for tree planters. This is not cheaper labor.

4. H2B workers are treated like any other worker on payday. They receive a payroll check with itemized deductions for Social Security, Medicare, State Income Tax, and Federal Income Tax. H2B employers must pay their share of Social Security and Medicare, along with Federal Unemployment Taxes, State Unemployment Taxes, and workman’s Compensation Insurance on all H2B workers. H2B workers pay the same taxes as American employees but cannot collect the benefits.

5. H2B workers must pass a security interview and background check by the U.S. State Department before they are issued a visa and allowed in the U.S.

H2B Employers

The industries using this visa program the most are Landscaping, Forestry, Construction, Hospitality, and Food Processing. H2B workers are certified in every state across the country. These employers are following the law by hiring legal H2B workers. Without these workers American employees of these predominantly small businesses will suffer layoffs or termination if the businesses cannot survive. These employers would prefer to hire only American workers but they are unavailable for these temporary seasonal jobs.

Here is an overview of how an employer applies for H2B workers:

Employers choosing to obey the law have an extremely difficult path to follow. Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act and Departments of Labor, Homeland Security and State regulations, employers have to undergo rigorous scrutiny, and have only 120 days prior to the date they need a temporary worker in order to complete the process.

STEP 1: State-level departments of labor: Between 60 and 120 days prior to the first day the temporary worker is needed, the employer files and processes a Labor Certification Application with the local state workforce agency (SWA). The SWA reviews and supervises the employer's full efforts to recruit US workers (including publishing three days of advertisements in a major regional newspaper), completes the processing, and sends the case to the U.S. Department of Labor for the processing of the actual Labor Certification.

STEP 2: US Department of Labor: DOL reviews the Labor Certification Application to determine whether sufficient recruitment took place to attract potential US workers, and whether the wage is high enough to ensure that it will not adversely affect wages paid to Americans in similar positions. If satisfied, DOL certifies the application and sends it to the employer.

STEP 3: US Department of Homeland Security: The employer files an H-2B petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), enclosing the approved Labor Certification with the petition. The H-2B petition details about the company's recruitment efforts, reasons why the company needs these temporary workers, and how the company will pay the workers. USCIS often requests additional information about the temporary nature of the position and/or the temporary nature of the employer's need for foreign workers. If satisfied, USCIS approves the petition.

STEP 4: US State Department: Following approval of the H-2B petition, each temporary worker then files an H-2B visa application with the appropriate U.S. Consulate. The Consulate conducts a thorough security background check of the individual, and makes a determination whether the individual has sufficient ties to his or her home country and so return home rather than staying in the US. If satisfied, the Consulate issues the visa and the H-2B temporary worker comes to the US.



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