After more than a year of discussions, the U.S. Department of Labor has revised H-2A rules that aim to streamline the hiring process for employers and boost protection for workers.

Among other revisions, the rule changes mandate electronic filing of job orders, permit joint applications for small employers and allow employers to stagger entry of their workers.

The updates also increase protections for workers by enhancing housing standards, strengthening surety bond requirements and expanding the department’s enforcement powers.

The rule change, first proposed in September 2019, comes after months of public comment from agricultural groups, including the Northwest Horticultural Council of Yakima, Washington, and labor advocates such as the United Farm Workers.

The revisions, slated to take effect 30 days after publication, were announced days before the new Biden administration takes office.

Meanwhile, some agricultural groups expect the U.S. Congress to renew debate about the Farm Workforce Modernization Act or something similar. The bipartisan bill, which would check the rise of wages and provide a path to legalization for undocumented workers already in the United States, passed the House of Representatives 260–165 in December 2019 but fizzled in the Senate.

To read a Department of Labor news release about the rule revisions, and for links to the entire text, visit