Changing Demographics: H-2A & H-2B Job Orders and the Migrant Education Program

The Migrant Education Program (MEP) is authorized by Title 1, Part C of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, as amended, and funds high-quality education programs for migratory farmworkers and their children. ESCORT provides technical assistance and project management for MEPs across the country. For more information about the services that ESCORT provides regarding the MEP, visit our  Identification & Recruitment and  Program Implementation pages.

The demographics of migratory farmworkers and fishers throughout the country are changing, with that, MEP identification and recruitment (ID&R) practices need to change as well. One example where we see a change in the demographics is the increase in migratory farmworkers and fishers arriving in the United States via the H-2A and H-2B temporary visa programs.

ESCORT will be releasing four short articles regarding the H-2A & H-2B temporary visa programs over the next few weeks. These articles will include an overview of the programs, how the programs may be affecting the MEP, how to recruit students who work in these programs, and, ultimately, how the MEP can serve these students.

Stay tuned for more articles coming out soon!

Part 1: H-2A & H2B Non immigrant Visa Programs

To successfully identify and recruit eligible migratory youth that are in the H-2A & H-2B temporary visa programs, the MEP needs to first understand what these programs are.

The H-2A temporary agricultural program allows agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature.
From:  Foreign Labor Application Gateway

The H-2B nonimmigrant program permits employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States. The employment must be of a temporary nature for a limited period of time such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, peakload need or intermittent need."
From:  Department of Labor

Farmers and companies that need labor to fill temporary and seasonal positions rely on the H-2A and H-2B temporary visa programs to bring in foreign employees for a limited amount of time. H-2A workers perform agricultural activities and H-2B workers may perform a host of tasks from housekeeping to forestry and food and fish processing.

Every year, more and more employers are relying on the H-2A & H-2B programs to bring in workers due to a shortage of local workers.

In 2018, there were 196,409 H-2A and 83,774 H-2B visas issued. There is a cap on the number of H-2B visas issued every year, but, that cap has been lifted in the past few years to allow employers to bring in more than the 66,000 initially allotted workers.

Graph 1

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Source:  Worldwide H1B, H2A, and H2B Visa Issuances Fiscal Years 2013-2018 from the  U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs

The number of H-2A workers coming to the United States has more than doubled in the past few years as farmers are unable to find the agricultural labor necessary in their local workforce. H-2B workers continue to arrive at a rate higher than the cap of 66,000.

Historically, most US citizens are unwilling to do the intense manual labor that comes with agriculture and fishing work. Since farmers and employers are having trouble finding local work, they value the H-2A & H-2B programs to bring in a large number of hard-working individuals from other countries.

With more of these types of workers coming to the US, they are influencing the labor in those industries. Since the MEP identifies, recruits, and serves eligible families that work in those same industries, they need to stay informed on how to engage the workers in these visa programs.

Check back soon for our article about the H-2A & H-2B programs and how it affects the MEP.