Providing a legal avenue for seasonal agricultural workers is an important function. The H-2A guest worker program ( H-2A Farm Labor Contractor Program) is a temporary visa program that allows foreign workers to come to the United States to work in agriculture. The program was created in 1986 as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). In recent years, the use of the H-2A program has increased. In fiscal year 2020, the Department of State issued 213,000 H-2A visas. The majority of H-2A workers come from Mexico, followed by Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti.
There are many benefits to starting an H-2A farm labor contracting company. Here are some of the most important ones:
- High demand for H-2A workers: The demand for H-2A workers is growing, as the agricultural industry faces a shortage of labor. This means that there is a good opportunity for H-2A farm labor contracting companies to find clients and make a profit.
- Potential for high profits: The profits of an H-2A farm labor contracting company can be high, as the company can charge a fee for its services. The amount of the fee will vary depending on the specific services provided, but it can be a significant source of income.
- Opportunities for growth: The H-2A farm labor contracting industry is growing, which means that there are opportunities for H-2A farm labor contracting companies to expand their business. This can be done by hiring more employees, opening new offices, or expanding into new markets.
- Variety of clients: H-2A farm labor contracting companies can work with a variety of clients, including large farms, small farms, and agricultural businesses. This gives the company the opportunity to work with a variety of people and businesses, which can be a rewarding experience.
- Flexibility: H-2A farm labor contracting companies can be flexible in their operations. This means that they can adapt to the changing needs of their clients and the agricultural industry. This flexibility can be a valuable asset in a competitive market.
Of course, there are also some challenges to starting an H-2A farm labor contracting company. These challenges include:
- Complex regulations: The H-2A program is governed by a complex set of regulations. This can make it difficult for H-2A farm labor contracting companies to comply with all of the requirements.
- High costs: The costs of starting and operating an H-2A farm labor contracting company can be high. This includes the costs of obtaining a surety bond, recruiting workers, and providing housing and transportation.
- Risk of non-compliance: If an H-2A farm labor contracting company does not comply with the regulations, it could face penalties from the government. These penalties could be costly and could damage the company’s reputation.
To start an H-2A farm labor contracting company, you must first meet the requirements of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA).
These requirements include:
Once you have met the MSPA requirements, you can begin the process of applying for H-2A workers. The application process is complex and time-consuming, so it is important to carefully follow the instructions of the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Following are the Steps involved in Starting an H-2A farm Labor Contractor Company:
Meet the MSPA requirements. As mentioned above, you must meet the following requirements to be eligible to obtain an FLC Certificate of Registration:
- Be a legal entity, such as a corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship.
- Have a physical office in the United States.
- Obtain a Farm Labor Contractor (FLC) Certificate of Registration from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD).
- Have a surety bond in an amount equal to the highest prevailing wage for the occupation and area in which you will be employing H-2A workers.
Obtain an FLC Certificate of Registration. You can apply for an FLC Certificate of Registration online at the WHD website. The application process includes providing information about your business, including your legal name, address, and contact information; the crops you will be harvesting; the number of H-2A workers you need; and the wages and benefits you will be offering.
File an H-2A Application for Temporary Employment Certification. Once you have obtained an FLC Certificate of Registration, you can file an H-2A Application for Temporary Employment Certification with the U.S. Department of Labor. The application process includes providing information about the job you are offering, the wages and benefits you will be offering, and the recruitment efforts you have made to hire U.S. workers.
Recruit U.S. workers. You are required to make a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers before you can hire H-2A workers. This includes advertising the job opening in local newspapers and online job boards, and contacting state and local employment agencies.
Obtain a H-2A visa for the workers. If you are unable to find U.S. workers to fill the job, you can apply for H-2A visas for foreign workers. The H-2A visa is a temporary visa that allows foreign workers to come to the United States to work in agriculture.
Transport and house the workers. As an H-2A farm labor contractor, you are responsible for transporting the workers to the job site and providing them with housing. The housing must meet certain standards, such as being clean, safe, and sanitary.
Pay the workers the prevailing wage. You are required to pay the workers the prevailing wage for the occupation and area in which they are working. The prevailing wage is the wage that is paid to most workers in the same occupation in the same area.
Comply with all applicable laws and regulations. As an H-2A farm labor contractor, you are responsible for complying with all applicable laws and regulations, including the MSPA, the H-2A program regulations, and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Starting an H-2A farm labor contracting company is a complex and time-consuming process, but it can be a rewarding business opportunity. By following the steps outlined above, you can increase your chances of success.
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