Rule modifications that would streamline the hiring process for temporary and seasonal ag workers under the H-2A program have been proposed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“These proposed changes are designed to provide an efficient and secure program for farmers to legally fulfill their need for agricultural workers within the law rather than outside the law,” says Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

The proposed modifications reduce current limitations and certain delays faced by U.S. employers and relax the current limitations on their ability to petition for multiple, unnamed ag workers. They extend from 10 to 30 days the time a temporary ag worker may remain in the U.S. after employment ends.

The changes would also reduce from six to three months the time a temporary ag worker must wait outside the U.S. before he or she is eligible to re-enter the country under H-2A status.

Also, H-2A workers changing from one H-2A employer to another may begin work with a new petitioning employer before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the change, provided the new employer is in USCIS' E-Verify program.

To comment on the proposed rule, go to www.dhs.gov.