Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) recently introduced legislation to create an H-2C work visa program for agricultural workers called the Agricultural Guestworker Act (“AG Act”).
The AG Act seeks to replace the H-2A visa program by creating an H-2C visa for foreign laborers who engage in agricultural or forestry related labor and would likely loosen regulations that apply to agribusiness entities needing foreign labor.
The AG Act is currently in the mark-up phase with the House Judiciary Committee, and if passed, would usher in massive regulatory changes for farmers and agribusiness entities that rely on foreign labor. Under the Ag Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would control agricultural and forestry related visas instead of the U.S. Department of Labor and United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services. It would also allow foreign laborers who receive H-2C visas to work in agriculture and forestry for 18 months when employed in a job that is temporary or seasonal. When the work is not temporary or seasonal, an H-2C nonimmigrant could obtain employment authorization for up to 36 months. In all cases, U.S. employers would have to first attempt to recruit U.S. workers before hiring any H-2C foreign laborer.