U.S. Workers Lose as Another Obscure Visa Category Is Unveiled

By David North on September 25, 2019

Though I have been in the immigration business for a long time, I have never heard of the B-1 (OCS) visa and expect that most of my readers have not either.

It turns out to be a niche visa used by foreign corporations owning vessels that are employed in America's off-shore wind industry.

Remember the talk about how the generation of green, renewable energy was going to create lots of good jobs for American workers; and that this was going to happen as the sun and the wind were harnessed to give us an abundance of clean electricity? That may be true on dry land, but not beyond the three-mile limit at sea.

Apparently there was some confusion on the issuance of visas for jobs on foreign vessels that work with wind farms beyond the three-mile limit, but on the nation's outer continental shelf (OCS).

Immigration lawyers Jonathan Waldron and Stefanos Roulakis, of multi-office law firm Blank Rome, have written an article for Law360 (behind a paywall) saying the State Department has recently announced that the foreign crewmen will now have visas annotated as follows: "B-1 for transit or travel to the OCS for wind activities; not OCS activity."

You see, work on wind farms, even though on the OCS, is not regarded as an OCS activity; that designation is for oil drilling.

The deeper meaning of all of this is that the State Department, which has no regulatory staff in the United States for the visas it issues, is making a series of decisions about the American labor market. There appear to be no State Department labor rules for the work on these wind farms as they, although tied to the United States by transmission wires and selling electricity to the U.S. market, are defined for immigration purposes to be outside the United States. The alien workers, however, need to have some kind of visa to move from overseas, through a U.S. port, and on to the wind farms.

It reminds me of the bad old days when the Asian-owned garment sweatshops in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands could recruit foreign workers without any supervision from our immigration authorities, while selling garments in the United States at prices protected by America's tariff walls. That is no longer the case.

There is another problem as well, and that's the three-mile limit. Suppose there is a piece of the ocean partially in and partially out of the three-mile zone, where a wind farm could be established. Why would not a canny power company decide to build its towers just outside the three-mile limit so that it could use nothing but foreign boats staffed by foreign workers?

The lawyers' article did not so much as mention the negative impact of this situation on U.S. workers.

Topics: Guestworkers