Recently, the House passed a bill to streamline the H-2A process, making it easier for farmers across the country to hire foreign individuals to fill farm jobs. However, not everyone is on board with The Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Those in favor feel it provides the workforce United States farmers need at a reasonable cost to employers. Others feel the bill makes it too easy for international workers to gain citizenship, adding to an already sizeable immigration case backlog.
What is the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Visa?
Employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic laborers can bring foreign workers to the United States to perform jobs on a temporary or seasonal basis. The H-2A visa applies to certain periods of work, such as seasons or growing cycles, and efforts that require more than the usual number of workers to finish the work on time. To employ foreign workers through the H-2A program, farmers must establish that sufficient, able, willing, and qualified domestic workers are not available and that hiring H-2A workers will not adversely impact United States workers in terms of wages and working conditions.
If the Department of Labor grants temporary H-2A certification and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services approves their I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, the employer can move forward to seek foreign workers. Interested individuals then apply for the H-2A visa and seek admission to the United States at port of entry.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act
The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, changes the H-2A agricultural visa in the following ways:
- It allows holders with at least six months work experience to apply for Certified Agricultural Worker status for up to five years, which can either be renewed indefinitely or workers and their spouses and children can apply for Lawful Permanent Resident Status if they meet certain criteria.
- Workers who receive a green card through this process can pursue employment outside of agriculture.
- The H-2A process costs less time and money than the previous process.
The bill faces a good deal of opposition from both sides, in addition to the arguments mentioned above. Certain Representatives have concerns about the low standards for approval and worry it will open the door to those with criminal pasts. Immigration activists are worried that vulnerable individuals will be relegated to difficult and dangerous work for years while they wait for a green card. Proponents of the bill say the goal is to make it easier and cheaper for farmers to hire the help they need to be successful, improve their workers’ housing, and pay them according to real-world wages.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Clients Seeking Work in the United States
Because foreign agricultural workers are an integral part of the local and state economy, the new H-2A bill will have a big impact on Pennsylvania’s employers and workers. The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. are here to answer your questions and assist you with the H-2A process. To schedule an initial consultation, call us at 215-925-4435 or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.