Sen. Rand Paul introduces legislation to reduce visa paperwork for Kentucky farmers

BOWLING GREEN, Ky.- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has introduced legislation that he says will benefit Kentucky’s farmers by reducing red tape and streamlining temporary agriculture worker visa programs.

According to a news release from Paul’s office, the legislation provides solutions to several critical issues within the H-2A and H-2B temporary worker visa programs that are currently leaving many farmers frustrated and unable to hire and retain the workers they need.

“My Paperwork Reduction for Farmers and H-2A Modernization Act provides a commonsense solution to a frustrating problem by reforming our antiquated H-2A and H-2B temporary worker programs to meet the labor needs of Kentucky’s entire agriculture community. By providing greater flexibility within the programs, increasing reliability from season to season, and eliminating unnecessary regulatory burdens, my bill gets government out of the way so these Kentucky farmers and industries can grow, succeed, and continue supporting the Commonwealth’s economy,” said Sen. Paul.

While there is no cap on the number of temporary visas issued under the H-2A program, the H-2B program has an annual cap of 66,000 visas, according to Paul’s office. Paul says the restrictive cap has caused many farms and businesses in need of livestock, poultry, dairy and equine workers to suffer.

Paul’s legislation does the following:

  • Allows livestock (including dairy, cattle, and poultry) and equine workers, aquacultural, forestry conservation, and landscaping workers to be eligible to apply for participation in the uncapped H-2A program. The bill does not abolish the H-2B program; anyone that wishes to remain under the H-2B program may do so.
  • A temporary worker that follows the terms of their visa should be rewarded with expedited approvals the next time they apply. Thus, for an employer hiring returning workers, this bill creates a simplified application process and guarantees certain approvals pending any necessary security checks.
  • Allows farmers to apply for workers with staggered start and end dates on the same application, rather than an impractical one-size-fits-all status quo.
  • Requires the Department of Labor (DOL) to create an online application process and requires U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to create an online Request for Evidence (RFE) system. The DOL application would indicate any technical deficiencies before submission.
  • Requires the government to promptly provide a reason for a denial or delay to the employer, and to provide a reasonable time for the employer to remedy the problem.
  • Ensures an employer, who uses a third-party preparer to file an application for non-immigrant visas for workers and the paperwork was filed for the wrong program, will not face penalties, civil or criminal, for document fraud so long as the employer can demonstrate a reasonable belief the application was accurate and complied with statutory requirements.