The Department of Labor has announced a New H-2A Ombudsman Program to help with several issues faced by employers looking to hire agricultural workers or agricultural workers facing issues with their respective employers. As part of the Department’s continuing commitment to strengthening the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) has established an Ombudsman Program whose primary purpose is to facilitate the fair and equitable resolution of concerns that arise within the H-2A Program community, by conducting independent and impartial inquiries into issues related to the administration of the program. The H-2A Ombudsman Program will also identify areas where agricultural employers and worker advocate organizations have concerns in dealing with the OFLC and propose internal recommendations designed to continuously improve the quality of services provided by the OFLC. There is no fee for using the H-2A Ombudsman Program.
By establishing the H-2A Ombudsman Program, OFLC is addressing several issues. Some of these issues include the following:
– You are facing an emergency or hardship caused by a mistake, error, or delay by the Chicago National Processing Center in processing your H-2A application.
– You notice a pattern of inconsistencies or errors made by the Chicago NPC on approved H-2A job orders posted on the iCERT Visa Portal System’s public job registry at http://icert.doleta.gov.
– You are experiencing a problem with your H-2A application that you have not been able to resolve with the Chicago NPC.
– Your H-2A application is pending with the Chicago NPC beyond statutory or regulatory processing times.
It is important that before contacting the H-2A Ombudsman Program for help, an employer or employee should first try to resolve your problem by contacting the Chicago NPC via telephone on (312) 886-8000 or via electronic mail at TLC.email@example.com.
Thanks to the H-2A Ombudsman Program, these particular issues can be expected to be resolved in a much more expedient fashion than has been the case in the past. There are some issues that the Ombudsman Program cannot handle for an employer or an employee. Some of these issues include:
– You are seeking legal advice. We do not provide legal advice and cannot act as an advocate for any stakeholder.
– You are seeking assistance in filling out an H-2A application.
– You are presenting concerns or issues which are hypothetical in nature or otherwise do not involve H-2A applications that have not yet been filed. We cannot “pre-approve” H-2A applications or otherwise provide advice on any H-2A application not fully developed.
– You are seeking the reversal of an official action or decision by the Chicago NPC. While we can assist informally with your concern, we do not have decision-making authority and cannot serve as a replacement to the regulatory appeals process.
– You are seeking assistance with an issue that does not fall within the jurisdiction of the OFLC. The H-2A Ombudsman Program authority is limited to assisting with problems or concerns directly related to the OFLC’s administration of the H-2A Program.
The point of these issues is that the H-2A Ombudsman Program cannot assist with any legal work involved in a case, be it the initial application or post-decision activity. Even still, the H-2A Ombudsman Program is an important step towards making the process easier and faster for employers and employees to work within the H-2A visa season. For any other legal matters relating to H-2A visas, it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced immigration attorney to assist you on that matter.