The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that includes a number of changes to the existing H-2A program. The National Council of Agricultural Employers and the Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform has prepared this side-by-side analysis of the changes. The changes are expected to take effect in early 2020.
If approved, the DOL proposal would change the manner in which the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) is calculated. Currently, workers who are brought into the country under the H-2A Guest Worker Visa Program must be paid no less than the AEWR which is the average wage for field and livestock workers according to a quarterly survey of regional farmworker earnings. DOL is proposing that the AEWR be segmented based on different occupations on the farm. DOL contends that this will raise wages for workers in specialization positions while general farm workers, such as harvesters, could see a minor decrease in their weekly pay.
Additionally, the DOL’s proposal changes the point at which employers become responsible for the H-2A employee’s travel expenses to be when the employee arrives at the U.S. Embassy or consultant and receives their H-2A visa.
The proposal also loosens existing requirements that prioritize American workers. The DOL proposal would reduce the timeframe for which an employer is obligated to hire a U.S. worker from “the first half of the farm’s H-2A contract” to just 30-days from the start of the contract.
The proposed changes make significant improvements to the existing H-2A program, however, CCM still supports a comprehensive guest worker program which will require Congressional approval and the signature of the President. CCM continues to work with our industry partners and members of Congress to find a legislative path that provides stability for employees and employers alike.