The H-2 work visas are temporary permits created so that people can work in the United States for less than 1 year, whether they have any experience and without needing a degree. These workers can obtain employment in agriculture or in industries such as construction, seafood processing, hospitality, and others.
One of the most important characteristics of H-2 visas is that they are directly linked with an employer who has previously filed a I-129 petition with the Department of Labor in the United States; this petition allows the employer to obtain a certificate that permits the hiring of people from other countries for a period of 3, 6, 9, or 11 months. For this reason, a foreign worker is only allowed to work for the employer that appears in their visa.
The non-agricultural H-2B work visas have a limit of 66,000 visas issued per year. In contrast, H-2A visas are assigned for agricultural work and their quantity is not limited. Both visas (H-2A and H-2B), share certain benefits and labor protections (with a few exceptions). Workers have the right to:
Obtain a contract that specifies the details of the job like salary, duration of employment, and type of work. Remember to save this document!
¾th Guarantee; this means that if the job ends before the end of the contract, or if there is too little work, the employer has to cover 3/4th of the salary of the workers, based on the time stated in the contract even if there was no work.
Receive medical care in case of illness or accidents in the workplace. If the worker faces a medical emergency, he/she can call 911. It is important to let your supervisor or employer know if you are feeling ill or if you have suffered an accident.
Receive refunds for expenses incurred during the trip to the U.S. and back to Mexico. Workers have the right to receive the refund for their trip to the U.S. during the first or second week of work and the refund for their return trip at the completion of the period of work stipulated in the contract.
Defend their rights as migrant workers with a visa. The employer cannot retaliate against workers who speak out in defense of their rights.
It is important to know what the differences in the rights or benefits of each visa are. For example, if you have an H-2A work visa your employer has to provide you with free housing and free transportation to and from the worksite. In contrast, if you are working with an H-2B visa, housing is not free or mandatory, but the employer should not charge you more than the average price of living in the area. Do not forget that with an H-2B visa you have the right to receive overtime pay equal to time and a half.
Learn about this and other topics in the section of Know Your Rights in Contratados.org
We invite you to share this information with your friends, family, and acquaintances. If you have any doubts about your rights as a worker with an H-2 visa, communicate with the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM), we can help you resolve your doubts. Call us at our toll-free line from Mexico: 800 590 1773 and from the United States: 1-855-234-9699, Monday to Friday from 9:00am – 5:00pm.