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California’s wine industry and the H-2A visa

One of the industries that has a major presence here in California is the wine industry. Lately, the state’s wine industry has been dealing with a labor shortage.

Such shortages can be challenging in any industry. They can pose some special difficulties though for vineyards, given the time-sensitive nature of harvesting. Not harvesting at just the right time can have major consequences when it comes to the quality of grapes coming out of a vineyard. So, having the right amount of employees at the right times can be critical in the wine industry.

One way shortages in an industry can be addressed is through turning to foreign workers to fill in the gaps in the workforce. What employment immigration options an employer might be able to turn to for bringing such workers in depends on various things, including the industry they are in. For industries falling into the field of agriculture, one option that may be available is looking into hiring foreign workers under the visa class for temporary agriculture workers, the H-2A visa.

Despite the labor shortage in California’s wine industry, this industry still makes up only a very small portion of the state’s H-2A visa use (around 3 percent last year). Among the things that may be contributing to this are concerns among California vineyards about the complexities, challenges and costs connected to these visas. These visas have a range of requirements and restrictions connected to them, including those regarding:

  • Seeking out American workers first.
  • Housing.
  • Travel expenses.
  • Paperwork.

One wonders if, as the labor shortage in the wine industry continues, vineyards will become less hesitant in pursuing the H-2A route for hiring seasonal workers. Do you think there will be a big jump in interest in the H-2A visa program among employers in California’s wine industry in upcoming years?

When looking into any employment immigration option for addressing a workforce challenge (such as a labor shortage) it is facing, it can be important for an employer to go over concerns they have regarding the option with a skilled immigration lawyer. Such lawyers can explain what impacts the concerns, and the issues they are rooted in, could have on how good of a fit the option would be for addressing the employer’s workforce needs. They can also explain what steps the employer could take to prepare for and mitigate potential challenges related to pursuing the option.

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