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The New Regulations for Guestworker Program H-2A

The U.S. has an agricultural guestworker program called the H-2A program. This program allows employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to apply for visas to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers (such as Mexicans, Guatemalans, Indians, etc.) to the U.S. for agricultural work or temporary or seasonal services. There is no limit to the number of visas granted annually under the H-2A. There are three different federal agencies that oversee the program, and the three agencies have different figures. See U.S. Country Data for more information.

Historically, this program has had both its successes and problems, depending on whom you ask. The employers claim that the program is absolutely necessary because they cannot find US workers to do the work in the fields, and so they need to bring in foreign workers; but the advocates for these workers talk about the abuses workers suffer at the hands of recruiters and/or employers. Under the Bush administration certain regulations were passed that worsened the conditions for workers, such as lowering the amounts that were paid to workers. But on February 12, 2010 the Department of Labor, under the Obama Administration, published a final rule amending the regulations governing the labor certification process for temporary agricultural employment under the H-2A program. These new rules are a big win for both advocates and workers because it includes more protections for the workers. For more information on the new regulations go to Farmworker Justice.

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