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Farm workforce Modernization Act – H2A visas

by Ally Bolour | Jul 30, 2020

The farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, or H.R. 5038, aims to modernize the H2A system for foreign national farmworkers here in the U.S. The bill contains provisions related to alien farmworkers, including provisions establishing a certified agricultural worker (CAW) status and changing the H-2A temporary worker program.

The Department of Homeland Security may grant CAW status to an applying alien who (1) performed at least 1,035 hours of agricultural labor during the two-year period prior to October 30, 2019, (2) was inadmissible or deportable on that date, and (3) has been continuously present in the United States from that date until receiving CAW status. 

You are not eligible for CAW if you have been convicted of a felony, an aggravated felony, two misdemeanor offenses involving moral turpitude, and/or three or more misdemeanor offenses  not occurring on the same date, and not arising out of the same act, omission, or scheme of misconduct.

CAW status will be valid for five and a half years and may be extended.  DHS may also grant dependent status to the spouse or children of the principle alien. 

Once the foreign national applies for CAW status, he or she may not be detained or removed by DHS while the application is pending.  The foreign national will also receive employment authorization until DHS makes a final decision on the application.

Once in CAW status, the foreign national (and dependents) may apply for lawful permanent resident status after meeting various requirements, including performing a certain amount of agricultural labor for a number of years.

The bill also makes various changes to the H-2A program, such as (1) modifying the method for calculating and making adjustments to the H-2A minimum wage (2) specifying how an employer may satisfy requirements that it attempted to recruit U.S. workers, (3) requiring H-2A employers to guarantee certain minimum work hours, and (4) making the program available for year-round agricultural work and reserving a visa allocation for the dairy industry.

If you have questions regarding the new Bill please do not hesitate to contact our Office.  We are here to help.

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