Legal Rights of H-2A Workers

October 5, 2021 | By Audrey Holtkamp*


H-2A workers have legal rights that H-2A employers are required to respect. These rights include being provided free transportation and housing, being provided with all guarantees outlined in the work contract approved by the Department of Labor, and being free from discrimination for reasons related to their immigration status or citizenship.


H-2A workers must receive a work contract with all relevant information concerning the job offer in a language they understand[1].

The contract should include information about:

  • Wages and benefits 
  • Hours
  • Working conditions and types of work expected to be performed
  • All deductions that will be made to their paycheck that aren’t otherwise required by law

The employer must provide the contract when the worker is applying for an H-2A visa.


H-2A workers must be paid:

  • At least twice a month[2]
  • At the rate disclosed in the work contract

Workers must be given a pay stub listing[3]:

  • Pay rate(s)
  • Hours worked
  • Deductions taken for paycheck
  • Total earnings

H-2A workers are guaranteed employment for at least 75% (three-fourths) of the total work hours stated in the contract.[4]


For the trip from the worker’s home country to the United States, H-2A employers must:

  • Provide the worker with the means of transportation and free daily meals or
  • Reimburse the worker for all meal and transit costs by the time they complete 50% of the work contract (in this case, workers should make sure to keep all receipts for food and travel costs as proof for reimbursement)[5]

For the trip from the United States back to the worker’s home country, H-2A employers must:

  • Provide or pay for daily meals and means of transportation[6]

During the work contract, the employer must provide free transportation to and from the worksite and employer-provided housing[7]  Employer-provided transportation must be insured and meet all applicable safety standards[8]


H-2A workers must be provided free housing.[9]

  • Employer-provided housing must meet applicable safety standards[10]
  • U.S workers in corresponding employment must also receive free housing and daily transportation if they are not able to return to their home from the worksite within the same day[11]
  • If the employer isn’t providing three daily meals, they must provide free and convenient cooking facilities within the housing[12]

Illegal Fees/Confiscations

H-2A employers cannot:

  • Require workers to pay for any costs they incurred to obtain H-2A labor certification or to recruit workers.
  • Require payment for any attorney, agent, and application fees[13]
  • Hold or confiscate any of the worker’s immigration documents or passport[14]

Other Employer Requirements

H-2A employers must:

  • Display a poster outlining H-2A workers’ legal rights in a visible location at the worksite[15]
  • Provide all required tools, equipment, and supplies for the job at no cost to the worker[16]
  • Provide worker’s compensation insurance at no cost[17]

Discrimination or Failure to Uphold Work Contract

Employers (of any kind, including agents and recruiters) may not, “intimidate, restrain, coerce, blacklist, discharge, or in any manner discriminate against any person who has” engaged in any of the following actions:

  • Filed, instituted, or caused a complaint or proceeding
  • Testified or is about to testify in any such proceedings mentioned above
  • Consulted an attorney or legal assistance program
  • Exercised or asserted any right or protection on behalf of themselves or others

H-2A workers have the right to file a charge against their employer, agent, recruiter, or labor contractor if they feel as though they have been discriminated against:[18].

  • If a worker believes their employer has failed to uphold any guarantee stated in the work contract such as: wages, standards of living, guaranteed hours of employment, etc., they may file a complaint with any local Wage and Hour Division office. Visit the WHD website to learn how to file a complaint.
  • If a worker thinks they may have been discriminated against for reasons related to their immigration status or citizenship, they may file a charge with the U.S Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. Visit their website for more information on filing a charge.

Any complaints, charges, or questions submitted with the offices above will remain confidential until the worker decides to file a formal complaint.


*2021 CALT intern

[1] 20 CFR § 655.122 (q)

[2] 20 CFR § 655.122 (L)

[3] 20 CFR § 655.122 (k)

[4] 20 CFR § 655.122 (j)

[5] 20 CFR § 655.122 (p)

[6] 20 CFR § 655.122 (h)(2)

[7] 20 CFR § 655.122(h)(3)

[8] 20 CFR § 655.122 (h)(4)

[9] 20 CFR § 655.122 (d)(1)

[10] 20 CFR § 655.122 (d)(1)(ii)

[11] 20 CFR § 655.122 (d)(1)

[12] 20 CFR § 655.122 (g)

[13] 20 CFR § 655.122 (p) and 20 CFR § 655.135 (j)

[14] 20 CFR § 655.135 (e)

[15] 20 CFR § 655.135 (l)

[16] 20 CFR § 655.122 (f)

[17] 20 CFR § 655.122 (e)(1)

[18] 29 CFR § 501.4