The U.S. Department of State (DOS) fees for petition-based non-immigrant visas for H-2A temporary foreign workers will increase on June 17, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA) reported. The final rule from DOS will increase the H-2A visa fees by 7.9%, from $190 to $205, less than DOS originally proposed in 2022.
In its original proposal, DOS would have increased the H-2A visa fees by 63%, to $310. In response to that proposal, FFVA submitted comments in February 2022 urging the DOS to withdraw the proposed rule and consider alternatives. In reviewing the proposed rule, FFVA identified flaws in the DOS’s methodology that overstated costs to the DOS and understated the fees’ impacts to H-2A employers. The increase in fees would also not result in any new benefits or services for growers.
FFVA was not the only one urging the DOS not to raise the fees so much. The department received 80 comments regarding the H-2A visa programs. It said the comments generally asserted that agricultural businesses cannot absorb a 63% increase to H-2A visa fees. The comments also asserted that with rising prices across the board (for example, increases in the adverse effect wage rate), the fee increase would put the commenters out of business. DOS said its change to the original proposal should largely address the concerns of the commenters.
Florida accounted for 14% of H-2A jobs certified in 2020, making it the leading user of the agricultural worker program. The vast majority of Florida citrus is harvested by H-2A workers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service reported that Florida and five other states accounted for 55% of the certified H-2A jobs in 2020. The other large H-2A users were Georgia (10%), Washington (10%), California (9%), North Carolina (8%) and Louisiana (4%).
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