Delays in processing gives employers little time to complete the second phase of application and for workers to get visas. They can apply for visas online, but most of the H-2A process requires paper handling, which contributes to delays, the GAO said. Employers who need workers at different times during the season must repeat the entire application process for each set of workers. Farm employers say new rules implemented last year are causing the delay, even though the agencies in charge of it say they can't pinpoint why delays happen.
The GAO was asked to examine the program by the Departments of Labor, Homeland Security and State for aspects that create problems for employers, and how federal agencies have addressed those challenges. GAO found that federal agencies are trying to improve the application process through electronic systems, but those improvements have been delayed. It recommends the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security implement their electronic application systems and use them to collect data about the delays. It says the agencies should use that information to streamline the process. (Read more)