The Rights of H-2A Workers
Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid
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The federal H-2A visa program allows agricultural employers in the United States to hire workers from other countries with a temporary contract. The U.S. employers must comply with specific requirements under federal law, such as:
Foreign agricultural workers can work temporarily in the U.S. (for up to 10 months) when there are not sufficient residents or citizens of the U.S. to complete the job. Temporary workers must return to their country of origin at the end of the season. H-2A visas do not result in, nor can they be used to get residency.
U.S. workers have priority when they request work from H-2A employers during the first half of the contract period. If a citizen or resident of the U.S. is willing and qualified to perform the work, the employer is obligated to employ the worker from the U.S. under the same terms and conditions as employing H-2A workers.
The Rights of H-2A Workers include the right to:
- Receive a copy of your work contract written in the language that you understand.
- Be paid at least $15.37 per hour in Iowa in 2021, even if you are paid on a piece-rate basis.
- Free housing that meets health and safety standards if the worker does not live close enough to work to travel from home.
- Three meals a day or a kitchen provided by the employer without cost.
- A payment guarantee of at least 75 percent of the employment contract term, even if you end up actually working less than this amount.
- The cost of traveling back to your starting point, having fulfilled the contract term.
- Free workers’ compensation insurance (compensation for work-related accidents for employees).
- Refuse to work for more hours than is required under the contract on any given day or week.
- Be free from discrimination or being discharged if you talk with Iowa Legal Aid or a state agency about a possible violation, or if you present a formal complaint, or if you help someone file a complaint.
- Be provided with everything related to the work: tools, material, and equipment.
Iowa Legal Aid advises foreign H-2A workers and workers from the U.S. about questions related to the H-2A program. If you have a problem related to an H-2A job, you can talk with us and your information will remain strictly confidential.