H-2A Continues to Expand
November 19, 2021
The H-2A program has been expanding. Fewer than 80,000 jobs were certified to be filled by H-2A workers in FY10, and over 317,000 were certified in FY21, up 15 percent from 275,000 in FY20. About 80 percent of jobs certified result in the issuance of H-2A visas, meaning that 250,000 H-2A visas were likely issued to foreigners filling seasonal jobs on US farms.
The number of certified H-2A jobs almost doubled between FY16 and FY21
H-2A workers are in the US an average six months, so that 250,000 H-2A workers fill about 125,000 full-time equivalent jobs, which means that 11 percent of the 1.1 million FTE jobs in US crop agriculture are filled by H-2A workers. Citizens of over 80 countries including Haiti may receive H-2A visas, but over 90 percent go to Mexicans.
DOL received over 16,300 applications requesting certification to fill 330,500 jobs with H-2A workers, and certified 15,600 applications and 317,600 jobs, 96 percent of the applications and 97 percent of the jobs. Many farm employers file several applications; fewer than 10,000 US farm employers have H-2A workers. The US has 110,000 agricultural establishments registered with state unemployment insurance agencies (NAICS 11), and the 2017 Census of Agriculture reported that over 500,000 farms had hired farm labor.
Farm employers apply for certification at least 45 days before they need workers. H-2A applications peak in the January-March quarter, when 37 percent of jobs are certified.
Seven of the 10 largest H-2A employers were FLCs, led by California-based Fresh Harvest with 6,100 certifications, two were associations including the NCGA with 10,900 certifications, and one was a farmer, Zirkle Fruit with 2,900 certifications.
States. Five states accounted for 51 percent of H-2A job certifications in FY21, led by Florida with 44,700, Georgia with 35,200, California with 33,300, Washington with 26,700, and North Carolina with 23,500. Almost 87 percent of the job offers were for crop farm laborers, followed by 6.4 percent for agricultural equipment operators, 4.2 percent for animal workers, and 1.1 percent for construction laborers.
DOL certified 317,600 H-2A jobs in FY21, including 51 percent in 5 states
H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program — Selected Statistics, Fiscal Year 2021 EOY
|FYTD||Q1 (Oct-Dec)||Q2 (Jan-Mar)||Q3 (Apr-Jun)||Q4 (Jul-Sept)||% Change FY 2020|
|Top 10 State of Employment||Florida||44,706||14.1%|
|Farmers and Laborers, Crop||274,939||86.6%|
|Agricultural Equipment Operators||20,308||6.5%|