The Senate immigration reform bill grants agricultural workers a new status – blue card status and those workers will be granted blue cards. Agricultural industries in the United States face a shortage of workers as they are unable to find legal workers and often American workers are not willing to take up jobs in agricultural industries. This often makes the farmers resort to hiring undocumented immigrants.
The blue card status has been established to solve the problems in the agricultural industry. U.S. employers will be able to hire foreign workers through an easier process and the undocumented workers will get an option to apply for legal status. According to the Senate immigration bill, blue card status will allow undocumented foreign workers to adjust their status to permanent resident status and obtain green cards after five years.
To obtain blue card status, undocumented workers must have been physically present in the U.S. since December 31, 2012, and need to prove that they have performed agricultural work for around 100 days within two years prior to December 31, 2012. While applying for blue card status, undocumented workers will have to pay $100 as an application fee.
The blue cards will be valid for three years and can be renewed for another three years. Blue card holders can work anywhere in the United States and for all the designated agricultural employers, registered by the Secretary of Agriculture.
The bill will also benefit the immediate relatives of the blue card holders. Spouses and Children of blue card holders also would be permitted to apply for lawful status in the U.S. However, they may not be permitted to work until they become eligible for blue card status themselves.
The bill requires U.S. employers to pay foreign workers minimum wages or higher than what they generally pay. The registered U.S. employers who hire blue card workers must provide them with a housing allowance or housing. U.S. employers are required to treat U.S. workers and nonimmigrant workers equally, pay equal wages, and provide equal working conditions and benefits. If the blue card worker has been with his employer for 27 consecutive months or longer, the employer should reimburse the travel cost from the employee’s home country to the place of work.
Currently, H2-A visas are being issued to low-skilled foreign workers. The Senate immigration reform bill would replace the H2-A program with the new blue card program.