Question(s) about hiring folks from other countries for harvest

Hey, might seem odd but we have actually never had an overseas person work a harvest for us. I have job postings running on at least half a dozen different sites and am getting less responses than normal. I have two responses from folks here in the United States, one of whom has not responded after I replied to his cover letter and resume so who knows where that is even going. However, I have been getting a larger than usual number of legit responses, especially out of Burgundy.

What does it take on our end if we are going to go down this road? Do they need anything more than a work visa? I imagine so. A casual Google search did not turn up much in the way of helpful information. If any of y’all have any experience in doing the legal stuff and what it all entails (and costs) it seems like I might be interested at this point in getting to know that stuff.

Yo can start with US. Dept. of Labor

I’m sure others know more than this.

I know in Europe they contract with companies that bring in labor. These companies deal with the visas and the like.

Are they unpaid? 90 day tourist visa should be legal.

If not, the H2-A seems like the most used one. Every other visa is a very lengthy process - I went through numerous O2 visas before I became a permanent resident and citizen and they always took at least 3-6months and cost about $5000 with lawyers each time.

Least amount of headaches is going through CAEP - communicating through agriculture exchange program.

Unpaid? Does anyone even try to get away with bullshit like that anymore?

1 Like


This may sound crazy, but Wall Drug is a giant store/tourist trap near the Badlands in South Dakota. In the past, they have had employed tons of international workers during the summer. Peak months are April-September. Maybe they could help you with some tips (and perhaps add to your employment pool).

I think that’s reasonable advice. From what I know (not much) I think H2-A is more field workers and cellar workers are often short term J-1 (exchange). The exchange aspects help avoid the labor certification.


I’m hoping someone will chime in, but he said CAEP was a good suggestion. I got the impression there are a few agencies wineries use, where they do all the paperwork for you, and so forth. Presumably, you go over the resume/profile listings to find good candidates and go from there.

1 Like

Any reason why it is necessary to import labor? Domestic labor seems like what the goal should be! Just saying

For our vineyard we use a third party to manage the harvest workers. They are all cleared and have social security numbers. We provide wages and housing.
As to why foreign, they can work two seasons since our harvest is opposite theirs.

Jim indicated he wasn’t getting domestic applicants. It would be much easier and probably cheaper that getting someone a visa especially if you use an agency to navigate the paperwork and you have to pay the visa fees. You’re required to pay prevailing wage (people try to skirt this but I’m sure Jim would not from an ethical standpoint and it would create legal exposure).


Not trying to be snarky but as a consumer (which I am)…I would rather pay more knowing the winery I bought from used domestic labor. Again, I mean no disrespect, just a point of view.

But you have to have a domestic labor pool which likely does not exist. I think most people don’t get what it takes to harvest, in many ways.

1 Like

Not sure why he hasn’t had the usual number of domestic applicants, but can’t hire people who don’t apply. Maybe it’s a one year glitch. Again, domestic is easier. As far as paying more, it turns out that most consumers don’t apply that in practice as often as one might think. I’m sure that you would, but Jim makes an awful lot of wine.


There’s been a shortage of both picking crews and harvest interns in California for the last few years.

As Martin noted, this planet has two hemispheres, so two harvest seasons. I know a lot of Americans who’ve done harvests in new Zealand, Australia, Chile, South Africa… It’s in that early part of a career where a hopeful winemaker-to-be wants as much experience as possible, so doing those doubles 1, 2 or 3 years at different wineries (here, too) is desirable. Each winery is different in many ways.

It’s hard work. Attention to detail is crucial. Hours are long. You get cold, wet, dirty, sticky, achy. You can average 16 hours a day with no days off for a few weeks. You’re the grunt who’s there to get the job done, however long it takes. If you don’t do your job well, the wine isn’t as good (or worse). The more you compromise on who you hire, the more likely they’ll quit and leave you short-handed right in the middle of harvest. I’ve seen others on here say they only hire someone who’s worked a harvest before. Sounds harsh, but it’s because they know what they’re in for, and less likely to quit.

One local winemaker had an intern quit after the first day because he didn’t like getting wet. Oh,my. Thankfully, he was an outlier, most interns work pretty hard.


There was a winery in the central coast that decided to hire only out of work Americans to harvest fruit during the economic downturn in 2008. 99% of the people they hired didn’t make it to the end of crush. It’s really hard, fast paced work. The overtime laws are also different for farm labor.

I’ve never seen an American on a picking crew. It’s easy to think if we just stop the temporary worker visas, those positions would be filled with out-of-work Americans, but we’re past that point in time. Nobody is willing to work those hard manual jobs anymore.

1 Like