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Employing H-2A Workers The Right Way

If you are leading an agricultural firm, you may need to fill positions with H-2A workers. These are foreign nationals who arrive in the USA seeking temporary work in agriculture under a visa without a pathway to citizenship.

The demand for these visas has surged, but it has also led to the horrific abuse of these workers. These employees should expect decent working conditions, fair pay, and safe housing, but they are often deprived of it.

If you are leading your own agricultural business, hold yourself to a higher standard. These workers are in your care during their time with you, and federal laws mandate that you treat them with dignity and compensate them fairly. Read on for tips on employing H-2A workers in the right way.


Know How To Qualify

Learn the parameters you must adhere to so that you qualify for the H-2A visa program. Do not mistake these laws for guidelines that can be loosely followed or ignored.

Know the distinctions between temporary and seasonal work. Understand that seasonal work is conducted when a productivity surge needs to occur within a targeted time frame, while temporary work can occur less than 10 months per year. Remember that you do not qualify for this program if your agriculture business has been subject to layoffs or strikes within 60 days of when work is due to commence.

Remember to advertise your roles to U.S. workers first. Accept any eligible referrals that come your way. Expect to work with foreign nationals when these types of options have been exhausted. Submit petitions if you wish to extend the contracts of your overseas workers.


Provide Fair Pay

Acknowledge the differences in paying H-2A workers compared to other types of employees. Comply with the law on these matters.

Provide workers with fair pay, even if you did not offer them sufficient working hours, which is a legal minimum of 75% of their contracted hours. Do not remove these workers from your premises without cause to avoid further payments.

Consult experienced immigration lawyers with questions such as ‘do H-2A workers get overtime?’. Familiarize yourself with the laws pertaining to your home state. For example, agriculture firms in Texas and Minnesota must compensate H-2A workers for extra hours worked.


Learn Expenses Requirements

Treat your workers fairly when it comes to collecting expenses. Know the legal requirements you must meet by following the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Review the legislative procedures you must adhere to around expenses. Inform workers in writing of any deductions to be made due to the provision of benefits and insurance policies. Do not deduct Worker’s Compensation insurance. Display literature that showcases insurance company names, policy numbers, and coverage plans in English and Spanish.

Do not seek payment from workers for any transactions for attorney or application fees. Understand that you cannot deduct expenses for recruitment costs nor to replace broken tools, spoiled products, or cleaning supplies. Cover these yourself, as they fall under business expenses.

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