A final rule was recently issued that will update the H-2A certification program. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the amendments on January 15. The announcement comes after extensive public comments from the agriculture industry as well as worker advocacy groups were received from across the U.S. According to the DOL, the final rule will make the program easier to use while maintaining protections for workers.
“This final rule will streamline and simplify the H-2A application process, strengthen protections for U.S. and foreign workers, and ease unnecessary burdens on employers,” Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training John Pallasch said in a press release. “It is a victory for farmers, agricultural workers, and the American people, who rely on a vibrant agricultural sector to supply food for our families.”
The final rule requires electronic filing for job orders and applications. Electronic filing allows information sharing between federal agencies through the Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) system. Using the FLAG system will also allow better communication with State Workforce Systems. The new provisions also provide other options for smaller employers that may be unable to offer full-time work to H-2A employees.
Other changes to the H-2A certification program include enhancements to the standards for rental housing and public accommodations. The DOL’s authority has also been expanded in the use of enforcement tools such as program debarment for significant violations. Ag employers will have the flexibility to stagger the entry of workers into the country over a 120-day period. The update simplifies the process to allow for a single application to be filed for different start dates.
“This final rule streamlining and modernizing the H-2A visa process will go a long way in ensuring American farmers have access to a stable and skilled workforce, all while removing unnecessary bureaucratic processes,” said Secretary Perdue. “These modernizations make the Federal government more responsive to our customers, ensuring American agriculture continues to lead the world for years to come.”