Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Breakthrough Reached Between Business, Labor on Guest-Worker Program

The two sides agreed earlier that foreign workers brought in under the program should have a chance to become legal permanent residents and citizens. They also agreed that the workers should not be dependent on their employers for visas. Foreign visa holders who quit their jobs under the program would have 60 days to find another job from an employer that is certified by the government to take part in the guest-worker program.

Details of the agreement were still emerging Saturday, including the creation of a new government agency to monitor the labor market, according to the AFL-CIO.

The new agency would be called the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research. Along with the agency a new visa program would be created for low-skilled workers called the W-Visa Program.

Trumka applauded the proposed new agency and the deal with the Chamber. “We expect that this new program, which benefits not just business, but everyone, will promote long overdue reforms by raising the bar for existing programs,” Trumka said in a statement. “But a new visa program is only a small part of our campaign to build a common sense immigration system. Mass deportations are a moral and economic crisis. The senseless thwarting of DREAMers’ efforts to live the American dream is a crisis. And we are leading a national campaign for reform that addresses these crises.”

The W-Visa program would allow for employers to petition for foreign workers in lesser skilled, non-seasonal non-agricultural occupations, which include jobs in hospitality, janitorial, retail, construction and other areas.

The bureau would be a separate and independent component within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Its director would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Bureau staff would include experts in economics, labor markets, demographics and other specialties needed to identify labor shortages and make recommendations, among other things, on the impact of immigration on labor markets as wells as the methods of recruitment of U.S. workers into lesser-skilled non-seasonal jobs.

The Bureau would also publish shortage lists by occupation and make annual recommendations and reports to Congress on how to improve employment-based immigration. The Bureau would further have a role in setting the annual cap on W Visas.

When the Bureau publishes a shortage list, those shortage occupations would have priority for W visas.

The program would start at 20,000 visas; then 35,000 visas would be available in the second year, 55,000 visas in the third and 75,000 in the fourth. On year five, the program will grow or shrink based on a statistical formula.

The cap can never be below 20,000 or above 200,000 in any year. One third of all visas available in any given year will go only to businesses under 25 employees and no more than 15,000 visas per year will be allocated to construction occupations.

Citizenship and Immigration Services would fund the bureau through registered employer and registered openings fees for employers.

Under the W-Visa program, workers would not be tied to a single employer. The program would not be available to employers who have laid off workers within 90 days, or to employers during a strike or lock-out.

The Department of Labor would establish a complaint process regarding an employers’ non-compliance with any condition in the program. The DOL would also pre-certify foreign labor recruiters.

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