The Department of Labor (DOL) is reversing a Bush administration rule that allowed farmers and ranchers an easier path to hiring temporary or seasonal foreign workers.
U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis, announced a new rule regarding the H-2A program. The final rule, published in the Feb. 12 edition of the Federal Register, will govern the labor certification process and enforcement mechanisms for the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program. The rule will be effective March 15, 2010.
The new rule will bump up the average pay for temporary farm workers by nearly a dollar per hour. Farmers also will be required to list job openings on a new online job registry, while state workforce agencies must inspect worker housing before employers can get the nod to hire foreign workers.
The H-2A nonimmigrant visa classification applies to foreign workers coming to or already in the United States to perform agricultural work of a temporary or seasonal nature. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security may not approve an H-2A visa petition unless the DOL certifies that there are not sufficient U.S. workers qualified and available to perform the labor involved in the petition and that the employment of the foreign worker will not have an adverse effect on the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
Additionally, the DOL enforces the terms and conditions of the labor certification and enforces worker protections.
The availability of work in agriculture is clear. During fiscal year 2009, employers filed 8,150 labor certification applications requesting 103,955 H-2A workers for temporary agricultural work. The DOL certified 94 percent of the applications submitted for a total of 86,014 workers.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) says he plans to introduce legislation that would allow dairy farmers to legally hire foreign workers through a special visa program.
To view a fact sheet about the new H-2A rule, visit www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/eta/eta20100198-fs.htm. The complete rule is available at www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2010-02731_PI.pdf.