U.S. Seasonal Worker Policies: What changes can the U.S. immigration authorities make to the H-2B visa program to more effectively address employers’ needs?
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Although international labor mobility represents one of the most effective ways of addressing worker scarcity in high-income countries, growing anti-immigration attitudes have made it difficult to advocate in favor of migration. Consequently, temporary labor mobility programs represent a promising way to at least partially overcome these political challenges, while also allowing employers to address labor shortages. This thesis examines low-skilled temporary worker programs in the United States, focusing on non-agricultural sectors through an empirical comparative analysis at three levels: i. A macro-level ‘between-country’ comparison of U.S. temporary worker programs with Canada, a “most similar” comparative case study. It finds that although Canada offers more pathways for temporary workers overall, it is not more open to non-agricultural low-skilled temporary workers than the U.S. ii. A meso-level ‘within country’ comparison that analyzes why one of the two U.S. temporary worker programs for seasonal workers, the H-2B program for non-agricultural seasonal workers, is bounded by a quota while the other, the H-2A program for agricultural workers, is not. It finds that a program created as part of a comprehensive immigration bill is more likely to have built-in caps as a political compromise to ensure the passage of the larger legislation. iii. A micro-level ‘within-program’ analysis of the H-2B program that compares employers who are able to secure foreign workers to those unable to do so due to the current visa cap. It finds that the latter experience lower revenues and additional costs. Based on my findings the thesis concludes with suggested policy modifications that could improve effectiveness of the U.S. H-2B program for non-agricultural temporary workers.