The onset and aftermath of Hurricane Matthew was particularly hard on farmers and agricultural associations. Storm winds and rising waters devastated farm lands, limiting farmers’ ability to harvest crops in the impacted areas. In light of Hurricane Matthew, agricultural businesses that use the H-2A program may experience hardship complying with program requirements, may have reduced labor needs because of the storm or may have an altogether new need for guest labor.

For example, although H-2A laborers are normally entitled to specific housing benefits, employee housing provided by farmers may have been destroyed during the storm. While H-2A workers are normally entitled to at least three-quarters of the work hours specified in the labor certification, farmers who were sustained storm damage may not be able to offer as much work as anticipated before Hurricane Matthew. In other cases, agricultural associations may have a one-time need for H-2B guest laborers associated with recovery efforts.

In certain circumstances, the U.S. government offers immigration relief that may help H-2A farmers and agricultural associations affected by unforeseen circumstances, including natural disasters, such as Hurricane Matthew. These measures may be available on a case by case basis upon request:

  • Change of nonimmigrant status or extension of nonimmigrant stay for an individual currently in the United States, even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired;
  • Re-parole of individuals previously granted parole by USCIS;
  • Expedited processing of advance parole requests;
  • Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate;
  • Assistance for those who received a Request for Evidence;
  • Replacement of certain lost or damaged immigration documents; or
  • Modification of certain need dates.

If the onset and aftermath of Hurricane Matthew impacted your fall harvest or farming operation, then you may need to consider whether H-2A or other guestworker relief measures are appropriate for your farming operation.