Your Rights with H-2A Jobs

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What Is an "H-2A" Job?

"H-2A" is the name of a program that allows U.S. agricultural employers to hire workers from other countries. The H-2A program also requires employers to pay higher wages and give better benefits to workers. 

Employers must first offer jobs to workers who worked for them in the prior year, and then to workers already living in the U.S.. Then, if employers cannot find qualified workers in the U.S., they can hire workers from other countries.

How Do You Get an H-2A Job?

Call your local employment services office or call the Michigan employment services office at 1-855-633-2373. Using these offices to apply for the job means there will be a record of your application. This could be helpful if you are wrongfully denied a job or terminated early.

Rights for All Workers with H-2A Jobs

Payment Rights

If you are an H-2A worker, you have the right to get a copy of your work contract in a language you can understand. Your employer must pay you at least $17.34 per hour in Michigan in 2023, even if you are working on a piece-rate basis. You must also be paid for at least 75% of the hours promised under the contract, even if you work less.

Your employer must give you a wage statement showing hours of work, hours refused, pay for each type of crop, and the basis of pay (hourly or piece-rate). Your employer has to tell you in writing about all deductions (not otherwise required by law) that will be made from your paycheck.

Recruitment Fees Are Illegal

Recruitment fees are illegal. If you paid fees to a recruiter, your employer should reimburse you for those fees.

Other Rights

As an H-2A worker, you also have these rights:

  • Free and safe housing at the address identified in your written contract

  • Three meals per day or free cooking facilities and access to groceries

  • Free transportation, in a safe vehicle, between employer-provided housing and the fields each day

  • Worker’s compensation insurance

  • Medical attention in case of an injury

  • Freedom from discrimination or firing if you speak to or seek help from legal aid or any other agency about problems with your employment

Your employer is not allowed to take away your passport, visa, or identification documents.

Additional H-2A Protections for "U.S. Workers"

Workers who are U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or work permit holders also have these protections:

  • U.S. workers have the right to be hired by employers who use the H-2A program;

  • U.S. workers may not be laid off during the contract period unless all foreign visa workers have been laid off first;

  • Employers generally must hire any eligible U.S. worker who applies during the first half of the contract, even if foreign visa workers have already started work;

  • U.S. workers doing the same work alongside H-2A workers must receive all the rights and protections above, even if they were not hired under the same H-2A contract. This includes the rate of pay.

Additional Protections for Foreign Workers with H-2A Jobs

Foreign workers with H-2A jobs also have these protections:

  • Your employer must reimburse you for any fees you paid for visa processing and travel from your home to your employment;

  • Your employer must pay for your transportation to return home at the end of the contract; 

  • You may be eligible for a U or T visa if you are the victim of a crime while in the U.S..

This information was provided by Farmworker Legal Services (FLS). FLS offers free and confidential legal services to foreign workers and U.S. workers who have questions about or problems with an H-2A job.