Does the H-2A Program Need Serious Reforms?

| Updated on March 27, 2024

The H-2A program allows U.S. agents or U.S. employers who anticipate a shortage of available domestic workforce in the future and meet specific requirements to fill temporary employment gaps by hiring foreign nationals. 

It is also known as the H-2A temporary agricultural workers program or the H-2A visa program. The United States agricultural employers benefit significantly from the Farmer Law. 

Who Qualifies for the H-2A Classification? 

To qualify for the H-2A visa program, the employer must: 

  • Typically, submit one valid temporary labor certification from the United States Department of Labor along with the H-2A petition. 
  • Show that there is a lack of domestic workers who are able, qualified, willing, and available to work. 
  • Offer a job that is of a seasonal or temporary nature. 
  • Demonstrate that employing an H-2A worker will not negatively affect the working conditions and wages of the U.S. workers employed in the same job. 

Main Problems with the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers Program 

Following are the main problems associated with the Farmer Law:

Lack of Protection 

The Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) has stated many areas of probable abuse of foreign workers, starting even before they arrive in the country. There is plenty of evidence that temporary foreign employees are frequently underpaid and suffer from many other exploitations. 

Experts think this is because the amount of Wage and Hour Department and further similar investigations of H-2A employers have significantly declined since the 2000s. And eventually, when these investigations are carried out, labor law violations are found in more than 75% of cases. So, there is a severe need for reforms in H-2A programs. 

Domestic Labor Crisis

Farmers in the states of Georgia and Florida mainly depend on guest workers from other countries to meet the labor demands on the farm, primarily because of the lack of U.S. workers. 

So, reforms in this farmer’s law are essential because wage rates have increased exponentially. This is a significant problem as the farm owners are not getting enough money for their products, and the cost is not growing with the rise in wage rates.

Some of the Proposed H-2A Reforms 

Eliminates the 50% Rule 

Under the present rules, employers must offer any able-bodied U.S. worker a job if they want employment until 50% of the H-2A contract. This reform requires growers to employ local workers during the first month of the contract. 

Adding New Worksites 

As per the current rules, the owners must give the addresses of the locations where the employers will be working. Now, the employer can add new locations and worksites to the job contract without filing a new form. 

Staggering Employee Arrivals

According to the present rules, if employers stagger worker arrivals for more than a fortnight, it requires filing separate H-2A applications. This adds expense and paperwork. The new law would allow growers to obtain workers anytime they want them for up to 120 days or four months after the first lot of workers arrive.

These are some of the main reforms proposed for the H-2A program. Other reforms include: 

  • More market-based wage rates 
  • Simplified and streamlined paperwork 
  • Expanding the area of potential employment 


The H-2A visa program was launched in 1986 by IRCA and has been the subject of several reform efforts over the years. There is a need for tough reforms in the program as migrants coming to the U.S. on temporary work visas are the most exploited workers in the country and need better labor protections.

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