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Workers install plastic mulch on a Georgia vegetable farm.

US and Guatemala sign memorandum to improve H-2A

Department of Labor and Guatemala signed a bilateral cooperative agreement July 30 on H-2A program.

The U.S. Department of Labor and Guatemala signed a bilateral cooperative agreement July 30 to increase transparency, accountability and worker safety in the H-2A nonimmigrant visa program for temporary agricultural workers from Guatemala.

According to a DOL statement, “Guatemalan government will provide additional safeguards for temporary workers by certifying that labor recruiters are vetted and registered with their government. The agreement is intended to complement existing U.S. laws and strengthen the protections for U.S. workers as well as prospective Guatemalan H-2A workers by ensuring Guatemalan H-2A workers are less susceptible to criminal actors and are not charged excessive fees as part of the H-2A nonimmigrant visa program, potentially undercutting U.S. workers.

“Additionally, these safeguards will assist U.S. employers who utilize the H-2A nonimmigrant visa program to seek workers from Guatemala by providing additional transparency and accountability concerning foreign labor recruiters’ compliance with U.S. and Guatemalan law,” the statement says.

The H-2A nonimmigrant visa program allows American agricultural employers to hire seasonal workers from 85 eligible countries after the U.S. employer demonstrates that there are not sufficient, able, willing, and qualified U.S. workers available at the time and place of need and the hiring of foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed. All H-2A nonimmigrant workers are vetted by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State prior to entering the United States.

John Pallasch, Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employment and Training Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor, signed the agreement on behalf of the United States government and Gabriel Aguilera, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, signed on behalf of Guatemala.

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