If you want to work in the United States as a temporary agricultural worker, you must qualify for an H-2A temporary worker visa. Under the H-2A nonimmigrant status, US employers can hire foreign workers from eligible countries to fill temporary agricultural positions.
Keep reading to discover how to get an H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa.
How Do You Get H-2A? – Understanding the Key Elements
Before hiring nonimmigrant temporary workers, US agricultural firms or producers must apply with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Workers cannot apply directly with USCIS, as a US petitioner must apply on a prospective worker’s behalf.
To be admitted to the United States under H-2A nonimmigrant status, you must find an agricultural job offer that is temporary or seasonal. In the application process, US employers must prove that:
- There are not sufficient domestic workers who are able, qualified, willing, or available to fill the vacant positions
- The employment of H-2A workers will not be detrimental to the wages and working conditions of domestic workers in similar employment conditions
When filing with USCIS, petitioners must submit a valid temporary labor certification issued by the United States Department of Labor (DOL). In circumstances described as “emergent,” it is possible for petitioners to waive this requirement.
How Do You Get H-2A? – Taking a Closer Look
Before foreign workers can request H-2A nonimmigrant status with USCIS, US employers must obtain a temporary labor certification for H-2A workers with the US DOL.
With the certification in hand, an employer may file Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) with USCIS. Once the petition is approved, prospective workers outside the United States can apply for temporary job offers under the H-2A nonimmigrant classification.
The application process is done through the US Department of State at a US embassy or consulate abroad. Prospective workers must also apply with the US Customs and Border Protection to enter the United States under H-2A status.
If the applicant wants to bring a spouse and unmarried children (under 21) to the United States, they must apply for the H-4 nonimmigrant classification.
How Do You Get H-2A? – Eligible Countries
The H-2A program restricts the availability of temporary agricultural worker visas to certain countries. Each year, the US Department of Homeland Security publishes the list of H-2A eligible countries in a Federal Register notice. Once published, the designation is valid for one year.
How Long Is it Possible to Stay in the United States Under H-2A Status?
The validity of an individual’s H-2A status depends on the period authorized for the temporary labor certification. USCIS provides the H-2A classification may be extended for qualifying employment in increments of up to one year each.
Considering the possibility of renewal, the maximum period of stay under H-2A status is three years.
Once the three years are gone, the H-2A worker must depart and remain outside the United States for at least three months (without interruptions). After three months, it is possible to apply for an H-2A visa again.