The U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration and its Wage and Hour Division have announced a final rule to improve the H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker certification process and also strengthen protections for workers.

The H-2B program allows the entry of foreign workers into the U.S. on a temporary basis when qualified U.S. workers are not available, and the employment of those foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers. The H-2B program is limited by law to a cap of 66,000 visas per year.

The department responded to comments from employers and worker advocates in drafting the final rule, providing employers with greater flexibility and certainty throughout the application and recruitment processes as well as improving U.S. workers' access to jobs. The final rule creates a national registry for all H-2B job postings and increases the amount of time during which U.S. workers must be recruited. The rule also requires the rehiring of former employees when available.

The rule becomes effective on April 23.

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