Readout: US Department of Labor hosts discussion on safety and health agency’s new authority to provide visa certifications to better protect workers
WASHINGTON – Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker hosted workers, advocates and worker organization leaders today for a discussion on the agency’s new authority to issue certifications in support of applications for U nonimmigrant status and T nonimmigrant status visas. The agency also launched a new U and T Visa Certifications webpage.
Workers may fear retaliation for speaking up about unsafe working conditions, especially if they lack citizenship status or legal employment authorization, or if they have a work visa that is tied to their specific employer. “U Visas” and “T Visas” allow victims of specific crimes to help law enforcement detect, investigate and prosecute crimes without fear of retaliation based on their immigration status.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s top priority is to ensure workers are safe and can exercise their rights, regardless of their demographic or immigration status,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “A key part of that mission is expanding our work to combat workplace inequities that can create hazards and affect vulnerable workers who are likely to be exploited or victims of crimes. Our vision extends beyond setting standards, inspecting workplaces and providing training. Becoming a visa certifying agency gives us one more tool in our wide-ranging effort to better protect workers and their rights on the job.”
The department’s Wage and Hour Division has provided U and T visa certifications for over a decade. For the first time, OSHA can now also issue these visa certifications – in connection with its enforcement work – when the agency detects trafficking or other qualifying criminal activities, including murder, manslaughter, blackmail, extortion, felonious assault, involuntary servitude, peonage, obstruction of justice, witness tampering or perjury.
OSHA also has the ability to issue visa certifications if the agency detects the attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the identified qualifying criminal activities. While OSHA has the authority to issue U and T visa certifications, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services determines whether an applicant qualifies for the visa.
This initiative aligns with the department’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility plan and the Biden-Harris administration’s effort to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities across the federal government and improve job quality nationwide.