Immigration Law

H-2A Proposed Rule, Request for Comments

This document is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on 07/26/2019.

"The Department of Labor (Department or DOL) proposes to amend its regulations regarding the certification of temporary employment of nonimmigrant workers employed in temporary or seasonal agricultural employment and the enforcement of the contractual obligations applicable to employers of such nonimmigrant workers. This notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM or proposed rule) streamlines the process by which the Department reviews employers’ applications for temporary agricultural labor certifications to use in petitioning the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to employ a nonimmigrant worker in H-2A status. Amendments to the current regulations focus on modernizing the H-2A program and eliminating inefficiencies. The Department also proposes to amend the regulations for enforcement of contractual obligations for temporary foreign agricultural workers and the Wagner-Peyser Act regulations to provide consistency with revisions to H-2A program regulations governing the temporary agricultural labor certification process."

From DOL Press Release, July 15, 2019 - "These proposed changes would modernize the Department's H-2A regulations in a way that is responsive to stakeholder concerns and enhances employer access to a legal source of agricultural labor, while maintaining the program's protections for the U.S. workforce and enhancing enforcement against fraud and abuse.  

The NPRM includes several major proposals that would streamline and simplify the H-2A application process, strengthen protections for U.S. and foreign workers, and ease unnecessary burdens on employers. For example, the NPRM would streamline the H-2A application process by mandating electronic filing of job orders and applications, promoting the use of digital signatures, and providing employers with the option of staggering the entry of H-2A workers on a single application. 

The NPRM also proposes to strengthen protections for U.S. and foreign workers by enhancing standards   applicable to rental housing and public accommodations, strengthening surety bond requirements, expanding the Department's authority to use enforcement tools like program debarment for substantial violations of program rules, and updating the methodologies used to determine the Adverse Effect Wage Rates and prevailing wages to ensure U.S. workers similarly employed are not adversely impacted. 

Finally, the NPRM would expand access to the H-2A program by revising the definition of agricultural labor or services to include employers engaged in reforestation and pine straw activities, as workers performing these services share many of the same characteristics as traditional agricultural crews. The proposal would also codify and update procedures governing the certification for job opportunities in animal shearing, custom combining, beekeeping, and reforestation."