The H-2A visa permits agricultural employers to bring foreign workers from an approved list of countries to the U.S. to for positions that are temporary or seasonal in nature. Your operation must qualify as agriculture demonstrating a seasonal or temporary labor need to be eligible for the program.
Here are some examples of industries participating the H-2A Program:
• Row crops (i.e., tobacco, vegetables).
• Aquaculture and fish farming (i.e., crawfish).
• Cotton ginning and other specialty agriculture.
• Vineyards, Nurseries and greenhouse operations.
• Horse breeding.
• Beekeeping / Apiculture.
• Hay: Grains.
• Christmas trees
Contact us to see if your business qualifies for H-2A labor.
Over the past several years, famers have increasingly experienced a shortage of domestic labor willing to perform agricultural tasks. H-2A workers are a legal, reliable, and consistent workforce during a vital time in a farmer’s season. The H-2A program provides a “win-win” for employers and workers as H-2A workers are motivated and willing to get the job done.
See our H-2A program page to learn about the H-2A program requirements.
H-2A visas are granted to a single employer within a single area of intended employment for up to ten months and can be extended for “acts of God” or under extreme instances. However, workers may remain in the US for up to three years if they are transferring to different work contracts for different employers; after three years, workers must return to their country of origin for at least a 90-day consecutive stay before returning on an H-2A visa. H-2A visas must be applied for annually for each employer and contract.
The H-2A visa is a non-immigrant visa meaning individuals are not intending to immigrate to the US, as workers desire to return home. This means the H-2A program is providing a solid labor source for American farmers and securing our domestic food source while simultaneously boosting economies in needier countries.
This is a common misconception of the H-2A program. H-2A employers are required to hire any past employees and must actively recruit American workers prior to being approved for H-2A labor in order to prove they are unable to find local labor.
All domestic workers in corresponding employment with H-2A workers receive the same benefits including:
• The required H-2A wage rate.
• The same duties and working conditions.
• Reimbursed transportation for relocation if outside a normal commute.
• Housing (if domestic worker is outside of a reasonable commute distance).
• Paid for transportation to/from employer provided housing and worksite.
• Must be provided with a copy of the H-2A work contract.
• Must be guaranteed three quarters of the total work hours offered in the work contract.
The H-2A Visa application process is involved and complex. LSI coordinates with the following government agencies on behalf of our customers: State Workforce Agency (SWA), Department of Labor (DOL), US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the State Department. While LSI manages this process for you, utilizing our online Employer Portal, customers can see the status of their applications in real time.
Regulation states that an application must be filed 60-75 days head of the need date. However, to best understand how to best serve your business, LSI recommends that you reach out no less than 120 days prior to your requested start date.
Per the H-2A regulation, employers must pay all workers in H-2A jobs (foreign and domestic) the federal minimum wage, the state prevailing hourly wage or piece rate, the state Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), or an agreed upon collective bargaining rate- whichever of these is highest. Typically, the AEWR is the highest wage making it the applicable hourly standard. The AEWR rate changes each year and is usually published in December with implementation occurring in January.
You can find your state’s AEWR here.
Wage and Hour Division (WHD), a division of the US DOL, is the enforcement entity of the H-2A program. In this industry audits are classified as investigations and will occur at random and without notice. Investigations can also be prompted by worker complaints. H-2A employers should always assume WHEN, not IF, they will be audited by WHD.
There are so many complex aspects of the H-2A program, and that’s why it’s so important to have a good team on your side! LSI prepares our clients with all the information needed at your fingertips on our online Employer Portal, which allows you to be prepared for an investigation. We educate our clients in detail on the regulations and how to adhere to them as an H-2A employer.