The H-2A temporary agricultural visa is restricted to specific countries designated by the US Department of Homeland Security. Only US employers who meet the established regulatory requirements and foreign nationals from eligible countries may participate in the program.
In this article, you will discover whether there are exemptions in the H-2A visa program for nationals of Caribbean countries.
Understanding the H-2A Visa Program – The Basics
The H-2A visa helps US farmers and agricultural firms to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill temporary or seasonal employment gaps. Petitioners must apply on behalf of prospective workers, as USCIS does not permit workers to self-petition.
A US employer, an authorized US agent, or an association of US agricultural producers named as a joint employer must file Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) to request authorization to bring in foreign workers through the program.
The H-2A visa program has relatively strict requirements, as petitioners must:
- Present a job offer of temporary or seasonal nature
- Demonstrate that not sufficient US workers are able, willing, qualified, and available to fill the employment gap
- Demonstrate that bringing foreign workers to fill the employment gap will not adversely impact the wages and working conditions of US workers in similar employment
- Submit a valid temporary labor certification issued by the US Department of Labor (DOL) with Form I-129
Only nationals from eligible H-2A countries may be approved for admission into the United States to fill temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs. Every year, the Secretary of Homeland Security determines which countries are eligible to participate in the H-2A program.
The list of H-2A eligible countries is published once a year in a Federal Register notice. After publication, the list is valid for one year.
Caribbean H-2A Visa – Understanding the Regulations
In effect since February 19, 2016, an interim decision from the US Department of States, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security determined that certain nationals from the Caribbean who enter the United States in H2A status must present a passport and visa.
Before the rule, nationals from several Caribbean countries could enter the United States to work under the H-2A nonimmigrant classification without going through the program’s strict requirements.
Prior to February 19, 2016, DOS regulations (22 C.F.R. 41.2(e)(1)) provided that:
“A passport is required. A visa is not required of a British, French, or Netherlands national, or a national of Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, or Trinidad and Tobago, who has residence in British, French, or Netherlands territory located in the adjacent islands of the Caribbean area, or has residence in Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, or Trinidad and Tobago, if the alien:
- Is proceeding to the United States as an agricultural worker; or
- Is the beneficiary of a valid, unexpired, indefinite certification granted by the Department of Labor for employment in the Virgin Islands of the United States and is proceeding thereto for employment, or is the spouse or child of such an alien accompanying or following to join the alien”
Both the US Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security decided to amend the related regulations and remove the Caribbean H-2A visa exemption.
The decision was based on an effort to prevent the exploitation of the rule by terrorists or individuals seeking entry into the United States to engage in illegal activities or violations of US immigration laws.