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Meeting farm work needs with H-2A visa program

August 16, 2023

Farmers, ranchers and agribusiness managers have immediate, short-term labor needs that have been difficult – almost impossible to fill. Today, farm labor shortages reach into just about every sector of agriculture. Ag operators have been able to find some relief by hiring foreign farm workers. Make sure your customers have all their risk management bases covered as they solve a fundamental business problem – access to labor.

What’s the H-2A visa program and how does it work?

The H-2A temporary agricultural workers program, or H-2A visa program, provides farm employers a way to hire foreign workers to fill those essential temporary or seasonal workforce needs. It’s a way for farmers, ranchers and agribusiness managers to get the help they need when labor demands are highest. And it enables foreign workers the opportunities to pursue work and advancement.

There are limitations to the H-2A visa program. First, it’s a temporary program. Anyone who’s hired via the program can only be in the country for a short period of time. This normally corresponds with an annual crop growing cycle and specific fieldwork like planting, cultivating or harvesting a crop. H-2A visa recipients are permitted in the country for up to one year. In many cases, immediate family members can enter the country as well.

Participating employers are required to work with their state workforce agencies who recruit workers. The agency posts job openings and matches them with appropriate workers who have applied and are eligible for the program. Once connected with the right workers, employers are obligated to provide gainful employment — or paid work — for at least 50% of the specified timeframe.

Services to help your customers support temporary ag workers

Many agricultural states also offer education and resources for employers working with H-2A visa employees. If you have customers exploring H-2A workers, contact your state’s workforce development office to get the process started.

Employment is just part of the equation of introducing foreign ag workers to a farm, ranch or agribusiness workforce. Health care, job training and education are also essential in sustaining employees who are in the U.S. via the H-2A visa program. That’s where organizations like Proteus, come into play.

Proteus has more than four decades of experience in providing services to temporary agricultural workers and their families. It also provides health and safety training and legal aid in cases when employers aren’t following legal entry procedures or committing labor trafficking. Such services are important for anyone hiring H-2A workers in minimizing their liability by ensuring safe working conditions.

Provide the right information for hiring H-2A workers

Farm employers can access a H-2A visa checklist at where they can share specific information about their workforce needs. It spells out the dates when workers are needed as well as any past use of the H-2A visa program. Based on the results of a set of questions, the employer then has a game plan for how to best meet his or her labor needs via the H-2A program.