Smart Strategies for Recruiting H-2A Workers

March 20, 2024

Finding foreign workers for your agricultural operation demands careful planning and consideration. In this blog, we’ll explore proactive ways to recruit excellent candidates, collaborate with agents, and encourage goodwill in your employees’ communities. You'll learn how to plan ahead, be transparent, and create a positive experience. With the right approach, the H-2A visa program can supply motivated workers whom you'll welcome back year after year 

Understanding the H-2A Visa Program

The H-2A visa program allows employers in the agricultural sector to bring foreign workers to the U.S. on a temporary basis to fill seasonal jobs. As part of the program, employers must provide housing and pay wages that meet or exceed federal and state minimums.

Recruiting foreign workers is a complex process. Employers must obtain certification from the Department of Labor that there are no qualified U.S. workers available, then file a petition with USCIS to bring in H-2A workers. Employees can only work for the employer listed on their visa for a limited time.

Once petitions are approved, employers typically use recruitment agencies to find workers in their home countries. The agencies handle paperwork and connect employers with a pool of eligible candidates.

Building Relationships Through Cultural Understanding

To successfully recruit H-2A workers, you need to build trust and understanding across cultures. This starts with educating yourself and your staff about the cultural backgrounds and experiences of your potential workers. Learn about their values, traditions, and daily lives. The more you understand, the better equipped you'll be to establish meaningful connections.

For example, take time to understand concepts of family and status in the cultures you aim to recruit from. Recognizing that workers may feel obligated to send money home to support extended family can help you establish pay and benefits that allow them to do so. Furthermore, understanding views on status and hierarchy will allow you to thoughtfully assign housing and work teams. 

Becoming familiar with cultural communication styles, gestures and etiquette is also key. Pay close attention to body language and tone, as meanings can differ across cultures. For instance, direct eye contact may be seen as disrespectful in some cultures. And hand gestures or phrases meant as friendly in one culture could be seen as rude or offensive in another. With awareness and sensitivity, you can avoid misunderstandings and build trust.

Overcoming the Challenges of H-2A Recruitment 

Limited Timeframe

The H-2A program has strict deadlines for submitting visa petitions and job orders. This often leaves employers scrambling to recruit qualified foreign workers on a tight schedule. You only have 45 days to recruit before submitting a job order, which can feel like the blink of an eye.

Competition from Other Employers 

You're not the only one trying to hire H-2A workers. Other farms, ranches and companies are also recruiting many of the same workers, meaning you have to make your job opportunity stand out. If you’ve had H-2A workers before you know how critical their good word-of-mouth is to introducing new workers to your recruiting outreach. Don’t just do the minimum, bus trips to Walmart, events, religious services, etc. or company swag like hats and lanyards can be differentiators. Bottom line, find ways to compliantly make working for your company a better experience than your neighbor’s.

Cultural and Language Barriers

Recruiting foreign workers presents cross-cultural communication challenges. Workers may have limited English proficiency, while employers typically don’t speak the workers’ native languages. This can lead to confusion and misunderstandings during the recruitment and hiring process if not properly addressed. Using a bilingual recruiter, providing translated materials and emphasizing patience and understanding are helpful strategies. Sophisticated and high quality recruiters will hold in-person sessions around the foreign country educating workers, and collecting interested person’s information. Finally, excellent cultural competency will make it easier to manage workers when they are on the job at your ranch.

No Recruitment Fees

The H-2A program prohibits employers from charging recruitment fees to workers. What recruitment fees often look like in practice is domestic supervisors unofficially promising H-2A workers that they’ll be on the list for next year, in exchange for cash. It is imperative that you train supervisors on this rule, and enforce it with no exceptions. Employers must rely on their own recruitment efforts or work with third-party recruiters who charge the employers, not the workers. For smaller farms and ranches with limited resources, this can be difficult to navigate. For that reason we recommend working with an experienced consultancy like wafla

Streamlining the Recruitment Process


Finding and recruiting qualified H-2A workers can be challenging. As an employer, you want to cast a wide net to attract top talent, but you also want an efficient process that doesn’t create extra work. Focusing on a few key strategies can help streamline your recruitment and make the most of your time and resources.

Build Relationships with Foreign Recruiters

Rather than recruiting workers yourself, partner with established foreign recruiting agencies that already have connections to skilled agricultural workers in their countries. They can help pre-screen candidates to find those most likely to meet the requirements for H-2A visas. Working with reputable recruiters establishes a mutually beneficial relationship and helps ensure you’re getting the best possible candidates. Your first recruiter may not be the one that’s best for you, as you mature your H-2A program and gain experience with it you may decide a different recruiter will fill your needs better. Metrics like worker satisfaction and the visa rejection rate can be good indicators of a high quality recruiter. For example, REDDES, a recruiter we’ve worked with before, has an extremely low rejection rate of 0.3%. It all start with recruiters, it will be the most important relationship you’ll have as an H-2A employer.

Craft Clear Job Descriptions

Be very specific in your job contract about what the roles and responsibilities will entail, the required skills or experience, work hours, pay, housing, and other details. Not only is this a best practice from a compliance side with the Department of Labor, but it also helps recruiters and applicants determine if the job is a good match for their abilities and expectations before they invest time in the rest of the process. Clear communication upfront leads to higher quality candidates and a better experience for all parties.


With a little planning and creativity, recruiting H-2A workers can be a win-win for employers and employees. As long as you approach the process thoughtfully, you'll develop a loyal, reliable workforce. And you'll find the time and money you invest in building bridges pays back over the long haul in better retention rates and a more positive work culture. For help with every stage of the process, turn to Harvust. Our labor management software makes recruiting, onboarding, and complying simple.

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James Christopher Hall

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