USCIS Extends Certain Flexibilities in Responding to Agency Requests

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced an extension of certain flexibilities to assist applicants and petitioners in responding to USCIS. Flexibilities will apply to:

The Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (ETA) filed its annual update to allowable meal charges and reimbursement for travel subsistence for H-2A guest workers.

Last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will be extending provisions of its August 20, 2020, temporary final rule. If the term “temporary final” sounds contradictory and unclear – you are in good company! During the COVID-19 health pandemic, DHS has issued a series of “temporary final” rules that adjust deadlines and other requirements for employers making it difficult to keep up with the up-to-date regulations and laws. The reason for the implementation of “temporary final” rules is simple, it allows DHS to skip the Notice and Comment period and institute rules with an immediate effective date.

After significant buzz over the past year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office will implement the final rule on Public Charge Grounds of Inadmissibility starting February 24, 2020, nationwide except in the State of Illinois where USCIS has been enjoined (the legal term for stopped) by a federal district court. This latest round of rule changes comes with updated USCIS forms including Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (including H-1B, H-2A, H-2B and others).

United Farm Workers (UFW) continued its fight against the Department of Labor (DOL) this week filing a lawsuit to permanently block the DOL from implementing a new rule on calculating H-2A Wage Rates. This is their second bold move to become a stakeholder in the H-2A program. They sued the USDA on October 14 over its decision to cancel the Farm labor Survey. The Judge in that action ordered the USDA to halt its plan to stop collecting and publishing the data. As a refresher, DOL sets a minimum H-2A Wage Rate (called the Adverse Effect Wage Rate – “AEWR”) that employers using the H-2A program must pay to both certain U.S. farmworkers and foreign guest workers. To set the H-2A Wage Rate, DOL annually reviews data from the USDA Farm Labor Survey and sets the H-2A Wage Rate by state. On November 5, 2020, DOL announced a new proposed rule that first, freezes the H-2A Wage Rate based on the 2019 Farm Labor Survey data to the year 2023, and second, shifts the data from the USDA Farm Labor Survey to the Occupational Employment Statistics survey. With the effective date originally scheduled for December, the impact of these changes are swift on employers using the H-2A program.

An important victory comes out of the District Court in Washington D.C. today for the ag industry. For years, the ag industry has suffered a shortage of available commercial truck drivers and haulers to transport ag commodities from the fields to the processing facilities. During harvest, drivers and haulers are a critical component when fruit can perish within hours if not transported to cooling and processing facilities. To supplement the shortage of truck drivers and haulers, growers and labor contractors have filed for and received guest workers through the H-2A visa program.

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