Everything to Know About Employing Seasonal Migrant Workers

Immigrants looking to establish a life in the United States sometimes struggle to find work. Some end up working seasonal positions to get a foot in the door. In areas like agriculture, they can be a valuable addition to a business's busy season without requiring a full-time commitment. Yet, for businesses that employ seasonal migrant workers, there are some unique laws that you must understand to hire and pay these workers legally.

Everything to Know About Employing Seasonal Migrant Workers

What Are Seasonal Migrant Workers?

A seasonal migrant worker works in seasonal positions, often in agriculture, and travels from their permanent residence to seek this work. These workers may have a permanent place they eventually return to, but during their working season, they will live in temporary homes. Sometimes, seasonal migrant workers take their families with them when they pursue work, while some will leave their families in their permanent locations.

Where Do Seasonal Migrant Workers Find Work?

Seasonal migrant workers travel to find seasonal work opportunities. Agriculture is one of the most common industries that employ this type of worker. Since farming has a busy season during the planting and harvesting seasons and quiet periods during the growing and dormant seasons, this is a logical field for these workers. Other industries that may employ them include:

  • Landscaping
  • Construction
  • Meatpacking
  • Disaster response clean-up

Short-term demand for many workers in each of these industries makes hiring full-time employees difficult. Thus, seasonal migrant workers can tackle the work and then leave to find the next opportunity during the busy period.

U.S. Immigration Laws and Migrant Workers

Because many seasonal migrant workers are also immigrant workers, employers must understand the laws that apply to these employees. If you're considering employing seasonal migrant workers, you must understand how to do so legally.

The immigration process in the United States can be long and tedious. For employers who need migrant workers, these delays can prevent them from getting people on the job quickly. One option is to get a temporary worker visa.

For employers who wish to bring in foreign nationals for temporary jobs, the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers visa helps. By filling out Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Workers, employers can get permission to bring in these workers temporarily. To use this program, the employer must demonstrate there are not enough able and willing U.S. workers to fill the job, and the position must be temporary or seasonal.

Labor Rights and Employer Obligations for Seasonal Workers

Migrant workers are given many of the same rights as regular employees to fair wages and safe working conditions under federal laws. The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) is one of the rules to follow. It sets employment standards for transportation, housing, wages, records, and disclosures to protect these workers from exploitation. It also requires farm labor contractors to register with the Department of Labor.

States also impose rules and regulations surrounding the employment and treatment of migrant workers. For example, the state of Illinois prohibits the establishment of migrant labor camps, while the state of Michigan has specific rules about what is considered fair housing for migrant laborers.

Challenges and Solutions when Hiring Seasonal Migrant Workers

Seasonal migrant workers are a great source of hard-working employees for industries with high demand season; hiring them is challenging. In addition to the need for proper visas, employers often must provide housing, documentation, and transportation for their workers, and they must do so in compliance with local laws. In addition, employers may face challenges because of language barriers, handling payroll for nonimmigrant workers, and correctly classifying seasonal employees to pay them appropriately with proper taxes taken out.

The first thing to do to work with these nonimmigrant employees is to talk to an immigration professional. These professionals are well-versed in immigration law and how it might apply to your seasonal employees. Once you have a handle on immigration regulations, you can start moving forward with your recruitment and hiring process.

Once you're ready to bring people on board, consider working with a payroll management company that understands seasonal migrant workers and the payroll concerns that come with them. A payroll company can also provide advice about classifying employees and working through documentation for nonimmigrant workers. Your payroll company will streamline your payroll process, so you can ensure your people are paid accurately and on time.

Seasonal migrant workers can solve your temporary busy seasons, but you must hire them ethically and legally. Working with these seasonal workers can help you manage your payroll more effectively and address temporary increased needs. Once you have them on board, simplify your seasonal migrant workers' payroll management with Workforce PayHub's expertise. Get in touch with us today.

Eric Jones
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