The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) activated two new functions on the farmers.gov website to help users navigate through the H-2A visa program application process for temporary agricultural workers and manage their agricultural loans.
“Customer service is our top priority at USDA and these new features will help our users manage their agricultural loans and navigate the H-2A temporary farm worker visa program,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.
The H-2A Visa Program, also known as the temporary agricultural worker program, helps US farmers fill job vacancies by hiring workers from other countries.
The US Department of Labor, the Citizenship and Immigration Service, the State Department and state labor force agencies manage parts of the H-2A Visa Program independently, with separate websites and complex business applications.
Focused on education and on the smaller owner-operators, this Phase I on the H-2A on the farmers.gov website includes a section of the H-2A Visa Program and an interactive checklist tool, with requirements of application, rates, forms and a timeline built around the hiring needs of the farmer.
Over the next several months, the USDA will collaborate further with the Department of Labor in Phase II on H-2A at farmers.gov with a simplified application form for the H-2A Visa Program, regulations and a digital application process that move the producers smoothly from the farmers.gov website to the farmers.gov portal and to the IT systems of the Department of Labor.
The standard filing process for hiring workers with H-2A visas should take about 75 days and will include the following steps:
- The farmer applies for a domestic work order with the local State Workforce Agency.
- The farmer applies for a temporary work certification with the National Processing Center of the Chicago Department of Labor.
- The Chicago National Processing Center of the Department of Labor provides the farmer with his final determination.
- The farmer completes an H-2A visa petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- Workers apply for the H-2A visa with the State Department and complete consulate interviews.
- Approved workers travel to the workplace and arrive on the start date with an arrival / departure record.
The Department of Labor approved a total of 242,762 H-2A jobs in the 2018 fiscal year. Last year, the number of approved H-2A employment jobs grew by 21% and the number of employer applications grew by more than 16 %. The program has tripled in size in the last decade: in 2008, 82,000 positions were certified.
Online Agricultural Loan Administration
The self-service website now allows farmers to start a session to view loan information, history and payments.
Users can access the “My financial information” function through the computer, tablet or phone. Now you can see on the website:
- Loan information
- Interest payments for the current calendar year (including interest for the year to date paid in the last five years)
- Loan advance and payment history
- Loans paid in full and restructured
- Account alerts that give borrowers important notifications about their loans
To access your information, agricultural producers will need a USDA eAuth account to log on to farmers.gov. After obtaining an eAuth account, producers must visit farmers.gov and register on the authenticated portal of the site through the link “Login / Register” at the top right of the website.