Introduction to the H2-A Guest Worker Program

The h2a guest worker program offers temporary work status to non-immigrant foreign nationals, or guest workers, who want to be hired for employment in the United States. The program was created in response to the needs of farmers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers. Under the auspices of this U.S. government program, farmers can legally hire guest workers to handle their seasonal or temporary employment needs.

How Does the H2-A Program Work?

Guest workers are required to have visas that allow them to stay in the United States for up to 10 months, although there are special procedures that can allow them to remain in the country longer than 10 months.

To hire guest workers, employers or their agents must put together a job application package, which begins a lengthy process that includes filing a job offer (ETA Form 790) with the State Workforce Agency in their area up to 75 days before the start of employment. The employer must also obtain a Temporary Labor Certification from the U.S. Department of Labor and file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129).

Who Hires Guest Workers

According to the Working Economics Blog put out by the Economic Policy Institute, 165,700 jobs were filled by H2-A visas in 2016, a 14% increase over 2015 and the largest number ever issued. About half of these jobs were certified in five states: California, Florida, North Caroline, Georgia and Washington. Because of the complexity of the hiring process, farm labor contractors have sprung up in some states, such as California and Florida, to handle the hiring process. In other states, such as Washington and North Carolina, farms hire workers through grower associations.

The H2-A guest worker program is trending up, having expanded two and a half times since 2006, when 64,100 jobs were filled.