Ag Act Details (timing, pre-approval, touchbacks and more)

Good news in these details makes me optimistic that we may be moving toward positive resolution in agricultural immigration reform. Thank you to the American Dairy Coalition for continuing to push for the legislation.

Today’s post is directly from the American Dairy Coalition.

Dear ADC Member:
The AG Act, which is included in Chairman Goodlatte’s “Securing America’s Future Act,” can be a little confusing. The actual bill language is expected to be released soon. Until then, I (Laurie Fisher, from American Dairy Coaltion) would like to clear up a few misconceptions:

First time H-2C visa holders in year-round jobs will receive an initial work authorization period for 3 years.  Subsequent work authorizations have been increased from 18 months to 2 years. The period touchback was kept at 45 nonconsecutive days, even though visa lengths were increased.

The bill allows farmers to “Pre-approve”/ “Pre-certify” workers before they leave the U.S. This change creates certainty for farmers. Farmers can allow current workers to seek and receive pre-approval of their H-2C petitions BEFORE leaving the USA for their nonconsecutive touchback requirement. It also allows the pre-certification of the worker’s admission back into the U.S. BEFORE they leave, via the issuance of advance parole documents. They are required to leave the U.S. boundary, but are not mandated to go back to their home country.

Additional time to complete initial touchback during implementation period. The bill only provided six months for current unlawful workers to touchback. The Chairman has agreed to extend the period of time following the beginning implementation of the H-2C program during which unlawful farmworkers must complete their touch back from six months to one year. This allows flexibility for farmers who employ year-round workers to stagger the touch backs of their farmworkers and reduce any negative impacts on their operations due to touchback requirements. This initial touchback requires (1) day to leave the U.S. boundaries.

Additional information regarding the cap on new visas:

Under the AG Act, 450,000 visas will be available each year for H-2C workers. 40,000 of those visas are set aside exclusively for meat and poultry processing workers. The remaining 410,000 visas are for all other jobs classified as agricultural labor. But how we count these visas is key:

H-2A and H-2B workers, who return to their employers as H-2C workers, will not count toward this annual visa limit. Previously unauthorized farmworkers who participate legally in the new program will never count toward the annual cap.

The AG Act includes an automatic escalator for the 410,000 production agriculture visas. If the maximum number of visas is exhausted in a given year, up to 10 percent more visas will be added automatically. With this instant, emergency safety valve, the number of available visas can grow year after year to accommodate new workers. This is because each year’s total becomes the baseline for the following year.

Each year, a whole new allocation of visas becomes available regardless of how many H-2C workers remain in the U.S. Consider the multiplier effect that multi-year H-2C work authorizations have on this cap: the actual total of H-2C workers who do count can be two to three times greater than the numerical limit in a given year! In addition, there will be hundreds of thousands more workers who aren’t counted against the cap.
American Dairy Coalition

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