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Visa Programs Available for Agriculture Labor Challenges

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Recruiting and retaining successful employees can be a daunting, expensive and timely task. The labor shortage within agriculture is no secret and not custom to one sector, operation size or location. After the required paperwork and interview process is complete, assistance from guest workers may lessen producers’ labor shortage.

Pork Checkoff sponsored Pork Academy seminars during World Pork Expo last month. Kerry Scott, Program Manager for másLabor, shared the pros and cons, processes and best practices for four guest worker programs.

H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers

H-2A is a temporary agricultural visa meant for seasonal work. Swine and some other livestock entities work year-round rather than seasonal so H-2A is not ideal. However, it is useful for row crop or produce operations. The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age can accompany the H-2A nonimmigrant pending all individuals hold a H-4 nonimmigrant classification visa.

Is H-2A right for your operation? — Kerry Scott, másLabor

More H-2A Resources:

H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers

H2B visas meet the needs of non-agriculture, seasonal work. Food processing, lawn and landscape and construction fall into this category. There are select number of H-2B visas distributed nationwide each year.

The employer’s work is considered temporary if it is a(n):

  • One-time occurrence, which would be an employment situation otherwise permanent, but a temporary event calls for additional workers.
  • Seasonal need, such as summertime lawn and landscape duties
  • Peak load need, such as harvest
  • Intermittent need

H-2A compared to H-2B — Kerry Scott, másLabor

More H-2B Resources:

TN – Trade NAFTA Professional Workers

As part of the NAFTA agreement, Trade NAFTA (TN) visas are longer-term professional guest workers from either Mexico or Canada who receive non-entry level positions at a higher wage than they would in their home country.

Individuals with a bachelor’s degree equivalent degrees in veterinary science, engineering or agronomy, among others, generally apply for the TN Visa program within animal agriculture. Common swine-related positions include animal breeders, engineering or maintenance.

The family of the TN visa holder can come to the U.S. if they obtain a TD nonimmigrant visa and remain unemployed in the U.S.

What Does a TN Visa Worker Do — Kerry Scott, másLabor

More Trade NAFTA Resources:

J1 – Exchange Visitor Workers

A J1 visa is like an international internship. Individuals come to the U.S. to learn every sector of the business to later relate the knowledge in their home country. Their visa expires after one year with a possibility of a one-time, six-month extension.

The benefit of this program is a commitment with a planned ending, rather than an abrupt two-week notice like other employees.

How to Manage a J1 Visa Worker — Kerry Scott, másLabor


Watch Full Seminar Recording

Did you know?

The H-2A programs started during WWII when able-bodied men and some women served in the war and later took advantage of the GI Bill for new career paths. During that time, workers from Mexico came to cover the farm work1 Former president Ronald Raegan solidified the H-2A and H-2B program in 1986.2


​1. Farnsworth, D., & Önel, G. (2016, May ). Guest workers: past, present and the future. Gainesville , Florida: University of Florida Food and Resource Economics.
2. BallotPedia. (n.d.). Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Retrieved from BallotPedia

 

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