How does the process work?
The employer first has to apply at the Department of Labor to be able to employ H-2A employees. The employer has to qualify for the program. In order to quality they have to get a housing approval by the Department of Labor, and the job has to be advertised to see if there is any American employees that may be able to fill the position. The department of Labor then gives the employer a Labor certification, which allows the employer to file the application with the INS (USCIS) to get the work permit. This process takes about 45 to 60 days. Since we do work with the government, and times vary, it can take a week or two longer in some cases. Sometimes the employer could have been approved by the Department of Labor and then still take two to three weeks to get the work permit.
What is the H2-A Visa?
It is a non-immigrant, seasonal agricultural (farming) visa. Seasonal demand determines placement periods and can be for a maximum of ten months. H2A workers will receive reimbursement for their transportation costs from South Africa to their place of employment. The employer, at no cost to the employee, will provide a furnished house for the duration of the contract. The employee is responsible for his/her own cooking and provision of food. Hourly rate is a flat rate (minimum prevailing wage determined by the Department of Labor – differs from State to State). No taxes are withheld. Employer provides Workman’s Compensation or equivalent insurance for work related injuries.
Information for the Harvesting crew:
Employee has to have knowledge of harvesting and must have a heavy vehicle license (International License). You also have to get a heavy duty license in the United States, called a CDL. It is not a difficult test, but you have to study for it ahead of time. The employers will request a drug test, if you do not pass the drug test you will be fired, and send back to South Africa on your own cost. When it comes to housing, harvesting crews live in mobile homes and in some cases, employers do use motels. This makes it very important to have a good working relationship with other South Africans working with you, since you will be spending a lot of time together.
The mobile homes do meet the Department of Labor standards when it comes to the necessities. Housing is for free, but you have to pay for your own meals unless we tell you differently. If you have to provide your own meals, there will be facilities to do so. For the harvesting crew, you can have fixed salaries per month or it may be per hour. If it is per hour, you will be paid every two weeks. Hourly pay rates are determined by the Department of Labor and are different from state to state.
The weather plays a big role in harvesting. You have to be prepared that in some cases there might be rainy days where you will not be as busy; it might also be a drought, and this too could cause you to spend some boring times at home. During the good days, you will be expected to work long hours in high pressure conditions.
Information for farm workers (Hog, Beef, Milking parlors, etc)
The employer will provide housing; it can be a house or an apartment. Housing is free, and you can share it with a few other South Africans (up to the amount the Department of Labor approves the house for). The house is supplied with the necessities for furniture and cooking facilities. You have to buy your own groceries and make your own food. Wages are paid by the hour and the rate is different from state to state depending on the Effective Wage Rate (determined by the DOL). Before you come to the United State, the agent will inform you what your wage rate will be. When it comes to laundry, it is normal for you to do your own laundry. Many homes are provided with a washer and dryer, if not, there will be a Laundromat in town, where you will be able to do your own laundry. It is wise to bring enough clothes for ten days.
The employer will pay back the plane ticket. You will receive half of the ticket back halfway through your contract and the rest at the end of your contract. Due to subsequent employment with another employer who agrees to pay such costs, in which the employer will only pay for the transportation and subsistence to the next job. The necessary arrangements will be made by the employer to pick you up at the airport.
The employer will be responsible for transportation home to work and back. After work, you are responsible for your own transpiration.