Immigration Corner | I left the H2B programme, now I can’t get another visa
Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,
I was an H2B hotel worker. I travelled for 11 years to the USA on the programme. In 2015, I was sent to work in Georgia, where I was treated fairly for two days before everything started going really bad. We had to work to pay for the use of the furniture in the house, light bill, rent and cable bill.
We were supposed to start working at 8.30 a.m., but we had to catch the 6 a.m. bus and go to work and sit down until it was time to start working. After finishing work at 4 p.m., if the bus was full or if we missed it, we had to sit outside and wait until 11 p.m. to go home.
That was too much for me and the other Jamaicans, so we called our agent in Jamaica and complained to her. She said we should try to find a second job, although we were not allowed to work for anyone else. So we left without permission and went to South Carolina to work. That decision is now causing a problem for me to go back to work in America.
I am sorry that you had this experience on your last H2B assignment. The H2B visa is designed to provide temporary workers in certain industries to employers in America where the need is seasonal and there are no Americans to do the jobs. Normally, those jobs are in the hospitality industry. The H2B programme is fraught with fraud, and the US government has tried to institute policies to protect the employer in America and the immigrant workers, such as yourself.
The employer and/or the agent should have explained the full scope of your employment to you before you travelled to America on that 2015 contract. The employer is allowed to have you reimburse the cost of the rent/lodging and the facilities provided to you, and is required to provide the lodging in an area close to your place of employment. They are also required to provide transportation, and can charge you for that expense as well. The timing of the transportation is truly up to the employer to get you to your work location.
You were in what seemed at the time to be an untenable situation. However, your method of correcting the problem only served to now bar you from returning on the H2B programme and maybe any other non-immigrant visa. Once the work environment is unsatisfactory, your duty was to advise the employer and if not remedied, leave the job and return home to Jamaica. The fact that you left and went to another state to work for a different employer(s) was in direct violation of the terms of the H2B visa. Likewise, when you failed to report to work to the employer who hired you, that employer had a duty to report your absence/abscondment to the US Immigration. That would lead to your file being noted and your inability to secure another visa.
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq, is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a diversity and inclusion consultant, mediator, and former special magistrate and hearing officer in Broward County, Florida. email@example.com