H2-A | Investment Immigration

H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers

The H-2A program enables US employers or US agents who meet certain regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the US to fill temporary agricultural jobs. A U.S. employer, a U.S. agent as described in the regulations, or an association of U.S. agricultural producers named as a joint employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on a prospective worker’s behalf.

Those who plan to work in temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs are eligible for the H-2A visa. Seasonal here refers to the fact that the work falls inside a predetermined time frame or occasion. Temporary here refers to projects that are finished in less than a year.

Who May Be Eligible for H-2A Status?

To be eligible for H-2A nonimmigrant status, the petitioner must meet the following requirements:

  • Provide a job that is temporary or seasonal.
  • Demonstrate that there aren’t enough American workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.
  • Exemplify that hiring H-2A workers will not have a negative impact on the wages and working conditions of similarly employed US workers.
  • In general, with the H-2A petition, include a single valid temporary labor certification from the US Department of Labor. (In certain “emergent circumstances,” there is a limited exception to this requirement.) For more information, see 8 CFR 214.2(h)(5)(x).)

H-2A Program’s Application Process

Step 1:

Step 1 of the H-2A Program’s Application Process:  The petitioner must apply for and obtain a temporary labor certification for H-2A workers from DOL prior to asking USCIS for H-2A classification.

Step 2:

The petitioner sends USCIS Form I-129. The petitioner must submit Form I-129 to USCIS after getting a temporary labor certification from DOL for H-2A employment. With a few exceptions, the petitioner must include an original temporary labor certification with Form I-129 as the first piece of proof.

Step 3: 

Prospective employees from abroad apply for a visa and/or admittance. Prospective H-2A workers outside of the United States must, after USCIS approves Form I-129, do one of the following: 

  • Apply for an H-2A visa with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, and then apply for admission to the United States with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port of entry; or 
  • Directly apply for admission to the United States in H-2A classification with C

How long do H-2A visas take to process?

Due to seasonality, processing timelines for H-2A visas can fluctuate and can take longer. It is advised that US companies submit petitions to USCIS at least 60 days, but no later than 120 days, before they require the foreign workers.

How much time does an H-2A visa last?

Agricultural H-2A visas are transitory and only good for one year. The employee must therefore go back to their place of origin after a year. The H-2A visa can, however, be extended if they haven’t finished the job and the firm still needs them or if they find another employer. A person with an H-2A visa may stay in the US for a maximum of three years. Extensions are made in one-year increments.

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