On April 20, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a “temporary final rule” easing requirements on the growing H-2A program. The program, instituted in 1952, allows foreign nationals to work in the U.S. in temporary or seasonal agriculture jobs.

The Department of Labor (DOL) certified more than 270,000 H-2A petitions from American farmers last year. The new flexibilities allow short-staffed, tight budget farmers to breathe easier, restoring access to these previously displaced workers.

The final rule will be in effect through August 18. Its terms include:

Temporary Change
Current Regulation
H-2A certified employees may work for any H-2A certified employer as soon as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives the petition. H-2A certified employers must be in good standing to begin immediate hire.
H-2A workers can petition for an extension of stay, remaining in the U.S. for more than three years. H-2A workers are hired typically for one year and no more than three years.

 

According to the Department of Agriculture (USDA), these flexibilities will help stabilize the nation’s food supply and mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue called the changes “critically important,” adding USDA, DOL and the Department of State (DOS) will continue working together “to minimize disruption and make sure farmers have access to these critical workers.”

Review the final rule here.


Read on to see Ag labor shifts over the last month.


On March 19, Perdue announced that USDA and DOL would evaluate foreign employment in agriculture in view of the Coronavirus pandemic. The next day, all U.S. consulates in Mexico suspended visas for migrant workers, impeding access to thousands employed through the H-2A program.

Amid concern over labor shortages in an already fraught economy, DOS expanded its waiver policy on March 27, allowing visas to be processed without an in-person interview. “We anticipate the vast majority of otherwise qualified H-2 applicants will now be adjudicated without an interview,” the Department memorandum said.


We at Douglas Plant Health value certified foreign workers and celebrate their tremendous impact across the golf course and agriculture industries. We will continue to monitor this critical issue and update you as the situation develops. We are here for you – as a resource, as partners, and as grateful recipients of all you do.