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Employment Security Department: Frequently asked questions - September 24, 2014

Foreign guest workers


What is the H-2A/guest-worker program?


The federal H-2A program allows agricultural employers to import foreign workers temporarily when there are not enough qualified U.S. workers available. Employment Security’s official role in the H-2A application process is to oversee efforts to recruit U.S. workers and to help the federal government determine whether a labor shortage exists.

Once an employer is approved for participation, the U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for assuring compliance with program requirements, such as paying prevailing wages and workers’ compensation insurance, providing adequate housing and meals and paying for workers' transportation to and from their home country.

Employers must submit a worker recruitment request to the Employment Security Department no fewer than 60 and no more than 75 calendar days before the workers are needed.  If the WorkSource system and employer are unable to recruit an adequate number of U.S. workers, the employer can submit an H-2A application to the U.S. Department of Labor at least 45 days before the worker is needed.

Agricultural employers interested in learning more about the program should contact Employment Security’s H-2A program coordinator, Daniel Valdez at or 360-902-9701; reporters should contact Bill Tarrow at 360-902-9376.


Does Employment Security verify the legal residency of unemployment-insurance recipients and/or job seekers who receive WorkSource job referrals?


The Employment Security Department works with the federal government to verify the Social Security numbers of all unemployment-insurance applicants. Anyone not legally entitled to work in this country is not eligible for unemployment benefits and is not eligible to receive a WorkSource job referral.


Does Employment Security have information about how many foreign workers are employed in Washington?


Data about foreign workers are maintained by federal agencies, including the Department of Labor, Customs and Immigration and the Department of State.

In 2010, H-2A employers requested 3,054 foreign guest-worker certifications, and 2,991 were granted by the U.S. Department of Labor.

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