Roger Bernard, Farm Journal Policy & Washington Editor
The Labor Dept. Thursday released new rules for the H2A program, the temporary agricultural worker program.
Under the changes announced by the Labor Dept. in the rule to be published in today's Federal Register, companies that seek H2A visas for ag workers will have to provide documented evidence that they have looked for qualified U.S. citizens to fill the jobs. Previously, they only had to indicate they had looked for qualified workers. The rule will be effective March 15, 2010.
The Labor Dept. will also soon issue information on wages for workers under the program. Further, the agency said in announcing the changes that The Department of Homeland Security may not approve an H2A visa petition unless the Department of Labor, through its Employment and Training Administration, "certifies that there are not sufficient US 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."
During fiscal year 2009, the Labor Dept. said employers filed 8,150 labor certification applications requesting 103,955 H2A workers for temporary agricultural work. The Department of Labor certified 94 percent of the applications submitted for a total of 86,014 workers.