On April 20, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) enacted a temporary final rule to amend certain regulations pertaining to H-2A requirements. The H-2A nonimmigrant classification relates to temporary and seasonal agricultural workers and their employers within the United States.
United States employers with approved H-2petitions or who will be filing H-2A petitions risk not receiving all of the H-2A workers requested due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions or workers suffering from COVID-19 related illnesses. These current amendments to H-2A requirements have been enacted to minimize the impact of COVID-19 in lawful agricultural-related employment and ensure that United States agricultural employers have a sufficient number of critical employees which are necessary to protect and continue the integrity of the nation’s food supply.
Under the temporary final rule, there are two significant temporary amendments to H-2A requirements. Firstly, H-2A petitioners who have valid temporary certification (TLC) can now begin to employ certain foreign workers immediately after USCIS is in receipt of the H-2A petition provided they are already in the United States and in valid H-2A status. However, employees must start no earlier than the start date listed the H-2A petition.
Additionally, USCIS is temporarily permitting H-2A workers to stay beyond their three-year maximum allowable time period in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security will make this temporary rule applicable to H-2A petitions requesting an extension of stay, and any applications of stay that were filed by or on behalf of an H-2A worker, if they were received on or after March1, 2020, and remain pending as of April 20, 2020. If a new petition is approved, the H-2A worker will remain in the United States for a period of time not to exceed the time period in the Temporary Labor Certification.
At the present time, this temporary final rule will be in effect until August 18, 2020. Please contact Brown Immigration Law to schedule a free telephone or video consultation and we will be happy to answer your immigration questions.