The H-2A visa program benefits US farmers who suffer from the lack of workers to fill temporary and seasonal agricultural jobs. Eligible foreign nationals willing to take on these agricultural jobs are entitled to fair compensation, lodging, transportation, and other benefits.
Keep reading to discover the answers to frequently asked questions about the H-2A visa.
Frequently Asked Questions About H-2A Visa – The Essentials
Who Can Apply for an H-2A Visa?
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows US agricultural employers and foreign nationals from eligible countries to apply for the H2-A visa program.
Workers cannot self-petition with USCIS, as only US employers, authorized agents, or US associations of agricultural producers may apply on a prospective worker’s behalf. To qualify as H-2A employers, US petitioners must:
- Present an agricultural job offer of temporary or seasonal nature
- Demonstrate that US workers are not willing, qualified, able, or available to occupy those positions
- Demonstrate that the employment of foreign workers will not adversely affect wages and work conditions of US employees in similar employment
The petition must obtain a temporary labor certification with the US Department of Labor (DOL) and submit it with Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) with USCIS.
Every year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues a list designating the countries from which H-2A workers can be hired. Foreign nationals willing to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work in the United States may apply for an H-2A visa if:
- They can find an available job offer from an H-2A employer
- They can prove their intention to go back to their home countries once the visa expires
- They are nationals from eligible countries
What is the Validity Period of an H-2A Visa?
The validity of an H-2A visa depends on the work period authorized in the temporary labor certification. USCIS provides that H-2A visas may be extended in increments of up to one year each.
The maximum period of stay under an H-2A visa is three years. Once the three-year period is over, H-2A visa holders must depart and remain outside the United States for an uninterrupted period of three months before seeking readmission.
Is It Possible to Chance Status Under an H-2A visa?
If an H-2A visa holder finds another job that requires a different type of visa, it is possible to apply with USCIS for a change of status. For instance, if an H-2A visa holder finds a job that requires an H-1B, the sponsoring employer must file with USCIS for the H-1B visa.
Please note that changing from one H-2A employer to another also requires the new employer to get DOL certification and file a new Form -129 with USCIS.
Why Would USCIS Deny a US Petitioner’s H-2A Application?
Most visa denials associated with H-2A visas occur due to employer-related issues. Mistakes that may result in denials include:
- Failure to file the required certification and petitions in time
- Failure to prove the unavailability of US workers
- Failure to conduct the required recruiting efforts before requesting foreign workers
- Failure to meet the requirements of worker’s compensation, meals, housing, and transportation
- Violation of any terms and conditions of the H-2A visa program