The H-2A visa is for those who will work in temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs. Seasonal, means that the work occurs during a specified period of time or event. Temporary means the job takes no more than 1 year to complete.
Based on this, employers in the United States who have farms, farms or corporations, can hire laborers from foreign countries. These farm laborers will help employers with agriculture-related jobs for a specific period of time.
Who is eligible for the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Visa?
Both U.S. employers and foreign employees must meet certain requirements before submitting the H-2A visa. U.S. employers or agents who wish to bring in a foreign employer must meet these conditions:
The job positions they offer should be temporary agricultural jobs.
They must demonstrate that U.S. workers are not willing, qualified, capable or available to work in those positions.
They must also demonstrate that hiring foreign workers will not negatively impact the wages and working conditions of U.S. employees in the same area.
Finally, they must have the necessary documents and petition approvals. On the other hand, the conditions to qualify for an H-2A visa as a dependent are:
Get a job from a US employer that provides temporary agricultural work.
Demonstrate that they wish to return to their home country once their visa expires.
Be of a certain nationality. Not all nationalities qualify for this visa, only the following:
Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Madagascar, Malta, Moldova, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea , Spain, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, East Timor, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Vanuatu. This list may change over time and if the US employer wants to hire an agricultural worker from a country not listed above, they will need to complete additional steps in the application process.
In addition to the eligibility requirements, the applicant must have the following documents ready to apply for the visa:
- Receipt of Form DS-160.
- Application payment receipt (USD190).
- Forms I-129 and I-797 to show USCIS approval.
- Your valid passport.
- A professional photo (2×2).
- Documents showing that you intend to return home once your visa expires.
- Documents of family members if you are traveling with them.
Phase 1: job offer and labor certification
A U.S. employer seeking to hire foreign agricultural workers must first obtain a temporary agricultural labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). This certification demonstrates the need for foreign workers and verifies that the employment opportunity will not negatively impact U.S. workers. The employer must complete the necessary documentation and meet the recruitment requirements to obtain labor certification.
As a foreign worker, you must obtain a job offer from a U.S. employer who has obtained the necessary labor certification. Ensure that the job offer is authentic and meets the requirements for temporary or seasonal agricultural work.
Phase 2: submission of the petition
The US employer must file a petition (Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Workers) with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition should include all relevant details about the job, the duration of the employment relationship and information about the foreign worker, such as name and nationality.
As a foreign worker, you do not have to file the petition directly. However, you should provide the necessary information and supporting documents to your employer, who will include them in the petition. This may include your personal information, passport details and any required certifications or qualifications.
Step 3: USCIS Processing
USCIS will review the petition submitted by the employer and make a decision. Processing time may vary, so it is important to submit your petition well in advance of your intended employment start date. The employer should track the progress of the petition and promptly respond to any USCIS requests for additional information.
As a foreign worker, you should stay in contact with your employer and be prepared to provide any additional documents or information requested by USCIS. Also, keep open communication and make sure your employer keeps you informed about the status of your petition.
Step 4: Visa application
Once USCIS approves the petition, the employer will receive a Notice of Action (Form I-797) indicating approval. Your employer will need to provide you with a copy of this document, as it is necessary for the visa application.
As a foreign worker, you must apply for the H-2A visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. The application process includes submitting the necessary forms and supporting documents, such as the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application, passport, photographs, and approved Form I-797. You may also be required to attend an interview at the Embassy or Consulate.
Phase 5: visa issuance and travel
If your visa application is approved, you will receive the H-2A visa stamped in your passport. You can then arrange travel to the United States to begin your temporary agricultural work.
It is essential to accurately and completely complete all forms and submit the required documents to avoid delays or potential visa refusals. Common mistakes to avoid include providing incorrect information, submitting incomplete forms, or not including necessary supporting documentation.
How long does it take to process H-2A visas?
Processing times vary for H-2A visas as there is seasonality and sometimes it may take longer. However, US employers are recommended to petition the USCIS at least 60 days, but no more than 120 days before they need the foreign workers.
The US government takes priority in H-2A visas, so it speeds up the process because agricultural work is seasonal.
How long is an H-2A visa valid?
Since H-2A visas are temporary for agricultural jobs, they are valid for 1 year. Therefore after one year the employee must return to his country of origin. However, in the event that they have not completed the work and the employer needs it, or they find another employer, the H-2A visa can be extended.
Extensions are made in one-year increments, and the total length of time an H-2A visa holder can stay in the United States is three years. This means that the H-2A visa can be extended twice. After these three years, H-2A workers must return to their home country and remain there for an uninterrupted period of 3 months before they can reapply for a visa
Can the status of an H-2A visa be changed?
If you have found a job that does not qualify as temporary and seasonal agricultural work, but requires a different type of visa, you can change your status. For example, if you have found a job that requires an H-1B visa, your employer will have to go through the procedures to obtain the H-1B visa.
Also, if you find a new employer for an H-2A visa, the employer will need to get DOL certified and fill out a new Form -129, then you can start working for them.
Many foreign workers also wonder if they can apply for a Green Card when they have an H-2A visa. The answer is that they can. H-2A visa holders can apply for different types of green cards, whether business or family green cards.
Why would the US Embassy deny me an H-2A visa?
The reasons the US Embassy might deny an H-2A visa are mostly employer-related. It can happen because:
- There are enough US workers who can complete the job
- The employer did not submit the certification and applications on time,
- therefore could not demonstrate the unavailability of the US workers
- The employer did not conduct sufficient recruiting efforts
- Employer does not/cannot meet compensation, room, board, and transportation requirements
- The employer has previously violated the H-2A terms and conditions
Can my family join me on an H-2A visa?
The H-2A visa holder’s spouse and children under 21 may accompany him or her to the United States. They will need to apply for an H-4 visa. On the H-4 visa, dependents cannot work. Only dependents on H-1 visas may work under the H-4 EAD program under certain circumstances.
If the primary H-2A visa holder is extended, the family may also request an H-4 visa extension. Additionally, if the family finds jobs that require H-2A visas, they can try to change their status if employers follow the necessary procedures.
How do I apply for the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Visa?
The process to apply for the H-2A visa is based on the following steps:
- First, the farmer must apply for a domestic job with the local State Workforce
- Agency. Subsequently, the farmer can apply for a temporary labor certification.
- Second, the farmer completes an H-2A visa application with USCIS.
- Third, workers can now apply for an H-2A visa from the State Department and schedule an interview.
- Fourth, the worker attends the interview and waits for approval.
- Once the visa is approved, the worker (applicant) can prepare to enter the United States.