H-2A Agricultural Guestworkers:

Status of Efforts to Improve Program Services

T-HEHS-00-134: Published: Jun 15, 2000. Publicly Released: Jun 15, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the status of the Department of Labor's (DOL) efforts to improve the H-2A agricultural guestworker program services.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO believes that the principal conclusions of its December 1997 report continue to be valid; (2) a sudden, widespread farm labor shortage requiring the entry of large numbers of foreign workers continues to be unlikely now or in the near future, although localized shortages could emerge for specific crops or geographic areas; (3) although many farmworkers are not legally authorized to work in the United States, the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) enforcement efforts are still unlikely to significantly reduce the aggregate number of unauthorized farm workers; (4) while comparatively few agricultural employers seek workers through the H-2A program, those that do continue to be generally successful in obtaining workers; (5) in 1997, GAO determined that poor information on H-2A program access and the involvement of many agencies in the program could result in redundant oversight and confuse employers that are considering participation and that DOL was not always processing applications in a timely manner; and (6) while DOL and INS have made progress in taking the steps to improve the program's operations, key changes remain to be implemented, particularly those that would permit DOL to assess the timeliness of its applications processing and to improve protections for domestic and H-2A agricultural workers.

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