How to Hire an H-2A Worker: A Clear Guide

May 30, 2024 | Uncategorized

As labor shortages plague farmers and ranchers, hiring an H-2A worker may be an excellent option for producers. The H-2A program allows farmers to hire foreign workers to perform agricultural work on a temporary basis. However, navigating the application process and ensuring legal compliance can be challenging for farmers who are new to the program.

Understanding the H-2A Program is the first step towards hiring an H-2A worker. The program is designed to help farmers who are unable to find domestic workers to fill their labor needs. To participate in the program, farmers must demonstrate that they have a bona fide need for seasonal labor and that they have made an effort to recruit domestic workers. Farmers must also provide housing and transportation for H-2A workers and ensure that they are paid the prevailing wage for their work.

Key Takeaways

→ Understanding the H-2A program is crucial for producers who want to hire seasonal workers.

→ Navigating the application process can be challenging, but it is essential to ensure legal compliance.

→ Recruiting, housing, and managing H-2A workers requires careful attention to detail and a commitment to compliance.

Understanding the H-2A Program

Eligibility Requirements

To hire an H-2A worker, an employer must meet certain eligibility requirements set by the U.S. government. The employer must first demonstrate that there are not enough able, willing, and qualified U.S. workers to perform the temporary or seasonal agricultural work required. The employer must also provide free housing to the H-2A workers and pay them a wage that is at least equal to the prevailing wage rate for that occupation in the area of intended employment. Additionally, the employer must provide transportation for the workers from their home country to the United States and back.

Program Benefits

The H-2A program allows U.S. agricultural employers to hire foreign workers for temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs. This program helps employers who anticipate a lack of available domestic workers to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work. The H-2A program provides a stable and legal workforce for agricultural employers, ensuring that seasonal work is performed on time.

Limitations and Restrictions

While the H-2A program provides benefits to both employers and foreign workers, there are also limitations and restrictions to the program. For example, H-2A workers are only authorized to work for the employer who petitioned for them, and only for the period specified on the approved petition. H-2A workers are not allowed to work for any other employer or engage in any other employment while in the United States. Additionally, H-2A workers are not eligible for most public benefits, including food stamps and Medicaid.

Navigating the Application Process

Hiring an H-2A worker is a multi-step process that requires careful planning and attention to detail. Employers must follow specific procedures to ensure compliance with federal regulations and avoid any potential legal issues. The following subsections outline the steps required to navigate the H-2A application process.

Preparing the Job Order

The first step in the H-2A application process is to prepare a job order. This document must include detailed information about the job, such as the type of work, the location, the duration of the job, and the wages offered. Employers must also provide a description of the skills and qualifications required for the job. The job order must be submitted to the State Workforce Agency (SWA) in the state where the work will take place.

Submitting to the State Workforce Agency

Once the job order is complete, employers must submit it to the SWA for review. The SWA will review the order to ensure that it meets all of the regulatory requirements. If the job order is approved, the SWA will issue a certificate of clearance, which allows the employer to proceed with the H-2A application process.

Filing Form ETA-9142A

The next step in the H-2A application process is to file Form ETA-9142A, which is the application for temporary labor certification. This form must be filed with the Department of Labor (DOL) and must include detailed information about the employer, the job, and the workers being hired. Employers must also provide documentation to support their application, such as proof of recruitment efforts and evidence of the wages being offered.

Engaging with the Department of Labor

After the Form ETA-9142A is filed, the employer will need to engage with the DOL to complete the application process. This may involve responding to requests for additional documentation or information, participating in a recruitment process, and providing evidence of compliance with all applicable regulations. Once the application is approved, the employer will receive a labor certification that allows them to proceed with hiring H-2A workers.

In conclusion, navigating the H-2A application process requires careful planning, attention to detail, and compliance with all applicable regulations. Employers must be prepared to follow the specific procedures outlined by the SWA and the DOL to ensure a successful outcome.

To assist, we’ve put together a comprehensive checklist to guide you through the H-2A visa process, ensuring you meet all requirements and deadlines to hire seasonal ag workers.

Recruiting H-2A Workers

When recruiting H-2A workers, employers must follow certain requirements set forth by the Department of Labor (DOL). These requirements include advertising the job to domestic workers before seeking foreign labor. Below are some recruitment strategies to consider when hiring H-2A workers.

Domestic Recruitment Efforts

Employers must first conduct domestic recruitment efforts before seeking foreign labor. This includes advertising the job to U.S. workers through various channels such as newspapers, radio, and online job boards. The employer must also maintain records of these recruitment efforts to demonstrate compliance with DOL regulations.

International Recruitment Strategies

If domestic recruitment efforts do not yield enough workers, employers may seek foreign labor through international recruitment strategies. This includes advertising the job in the country where the workers will be recruited from. Employers may also work with a third-party recruitment agency to assist with the process.

It is important to note that employers must follow strict guidelines when recruiting H-2A workers. These guidelines include ensuring that foreign workers are not displacing U.S. workers and providing fair wages and working conditions. Employers must also provide transportation to and from the job site and provide housing that meets DOL standards. By following these guidelines, employers can successfully recruit H-2A workers while remaining in compliance with DOL regulations.

Housing and Transportation for H-2A Workers

Housing Standards

Employers who hire H-2A workers are responsible for providing suitable housing that meets specific standards set by the Department of Labor (DOL). These standards ensure that the housing is safe, clean, and adequate for the number of workers who will be living there. The DOL requires that each worker has at least 50 square feet of living space and that the housing is equipped with basic amenities such as heating, lighting, and ventilation.

Employers must also provide each worker with a bed, mattress, and clean linens. Workers must have access to clean bathroom facilities, including showers, toilets, and sinks, and the housing must have a functional kitchen with cooking and refrigeration equipment. To ensure the safety of the workers, the housing must also meet local fire and safety codes.

Transportation Logistics

Employers must also provide transportation for H-2A workers to and from the worksite. The transportation must be safe, reliable, and adequate for the number of workers being transported. Employers must also ensure that the transportation complies with all applicable laws and regulations, including those related to vehicle safety and insurance.

Employers may provide their own transportation or contract with a transportation company to provide transportation services. In either case, employers must ensure that the transportation is available to all workers who need it and that it is provided in a timely manner. Employers must also ensure that workers are adequately informed of transportation schedules and procedures.

In conclusion, providing suitable housing and transportation for H-2A workers is a legal requirement that employers must fulfill. By meeting these requirements, employers can ensure that their workers are safe, healthy, and productive, which benefits both the workers and the employer.

Legal Compliance and Worker Rights

Adhering to Federal Regulations

To hire an H-2A worker, an employer must follow the regulations set by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The employer must provide proof that there are not enough U.S. workers available to do the job, and that hiring an H-2A worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. The employer must also offer a job that is of a temporary or seasonal nature.

To ensure compliance, employers must file a job order with the State Workforce Agency (SWA) in the state where the work will be performed. The SWA will then post the job order for a minimum of 14 days, during which time the employer must actively recruit U.S. workers. If no U.S. workers are available, the employer must file a petition with the DOL to obtain a labor certification. Once the certification is obtained, the employer must file a petition with the USCIS to obtain an H-2A visa for the worker.

Understanding Worker Protections

H-2A workers are protected by a number of federal laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Employers must adhere to these laws to ensure that H-2A workers are treated fairly and provided with a safe working environment.

Under the FLSA, H-2A workers are entitled to a minimum hourly wage set by the federal government, with some exceptions for certain types of work. They are also entitled to overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

The MSPA requires employers to provide H-2A workers with written disclosures regarding the terms and conditions of their employment, including wages, hours, and working conditions. Employers must also provide H-2A workers with transportation to and from the worksite, and must provide housing that meets certain minimum standards.

OSHA requires employers to provide H-2A workers with a safe working environment, free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Employers must also provide H-2A workers with appropriate training and personal protective equipment (PPE) to help prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.

By adhering to federal regulations and understanding worker protections, employers can ensure that they are hiring H-2A workers in a legal and ethical manner, while also providing these workers with fair wages and safe working conditions.

Managing H-2A Workers

Hiring H-2A workers can bring many benefits to agricultural employers. However, managing a workforce that includes H-2A workers requires a unique set of skills and strategies. In this section, we will explore some key strategies for managing H-2A workers, including cultural integration, conflict resolution, and workforce retention strategies.

Cultural Integration

Cultural integration is an important aspect of managing H-2A workers. Agricultural employers should take steps to ensure that H-2A workers feel welcome and comfortable in their new work environment. This can include providing language assistance, cultural training, and opportunities for social interaction.

One effective strategy for cultural integration is to assign a mentor or buddy to each H-2A worker. The mentor can help the worker navigate the new work environment and provide guidance on cultural norms and expectations. This can help to reduce culture shock and improve the worker’s overall experience.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict can arise in any workplace, but it can be especially challenging when managing a diverse workforce that includes H-2A workers. Agricultural employers should have a clear conflict resolution policy in place and ensure that all workers are aware of the policy.

Employers should also be proactive in addressing potential sources of conflict, such as differences in cultural norms or language barriers. This can include providing training on cultural awareness and communication skills.

Workforce Retention Strategies

Retention of H-2A workers can be a challenge for agricultural employers, as workers are often only present for a limited period of time. To improve retention, employers should focus on creating a positive work environment and providing opportunities for professional development.

Employers can also offer incentives such as bonuses or housing assistance to encourage workers to return in future seasons. By investing in the well-being of H-2A workers, agricultural employers can improve retention and reduce turnover costs.

In summary, managing H-2A workers requires a unique set of skills and strategies. By focusing on cultural integration, conflict resolution, and workforce retention strategies, agricultural employers can create a positive work environment that benefits both the workers and the employer.


Navigating the H-2A visa application process can be complex, but it’s essential for farmers needing seasonal labor. By following the steps outlined—meeting eligibility requirements, recruiting both domestically and internationally, and providing proper housing and transportation—you can successfully hire H-2A workers. The H-2A program is a practical solution to labor shortages, helping ensure your agricultural work gets done on time. With careful preparation and attention to detail, you can make the process smoother and stay compliant with regulations.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. While we strive to keep the content accurate and up to date, we make no guarantees regarding its completeness or accuracy. Readers should consult with a qualified legal professional for advice regarding their specific situation. Braintrust Ag and its affiliates are not responsible for any actions taken based on the information provided in this blog post.

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