The H-2A visa program helps US farmers who need seasonal or temporary agricultural workers when there is a short supply of domestic workers who are able, willing, qualified, or available to perform these activities.
In this article, you will discover the essential rules and regulations of the H-2A visa.
H-2A Rules and Regulations – The Fundamentals
No foreign nationals may self-petition for an H-2A visa. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires that the petition must be filed by:
- A US agricultural employer
- A US agent (as described in the regulations), or
- An association of US agricultural producers named as a joint employer
When filing the petition with USCIS, the petitioner must offer an agricultural job of temporary or seasonal nature. Seasonal work refers to situations where farmers need more help than usual at certain times of the year. Temporary work lasts no longer than one year.
US petitioners must also demonstrate that:
- Not enough US workers are able, willing, qualified, and available to perform the temporary or seasonal work to which foreign workers are being requested
- Employing foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed domestic workers
USCIS requires petitioners to submit a temporary labor certification issued by the US Department of Labor (DOL) with Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker).
H-2A Rules and Regulations – Eligible Countries
With few exceptions, only nationals of countries eligible to participate in the H-2A program may be approved for an H-2A visa. Each year, the Department of Homeland Security publishes the list of H-2A eligible countries in a Federal Register notice. The designation is valid for one year, counting from the notice’s publication date.
Agricultural Worker’s Rights Under H-2A Rules and Regulations
An H-2A worker may bring a spouse and unmarried children (under 21) to live temporarily in the United States under the H-4 nonimmigrant classification. While individuals under H-4 status are not eligible for US employment, they can personally qualify for a work visa.
Dependents of H-2A visa holders are entitled to housing and education benefits, such as public education for dependent children (at no cost).
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) permits the employment of foreign workers only if the employment of domestic workers is not adversely affected. US legislation also guarantees worker’s benefits – whether these workers are coming from a foreign country or reside in the US.
If approved for H-2A nonimmigrant status, foreign workers are entitled to fair compensation, guaranteed transportation, lodging and meals, and other benefits and protections. A standard H-2A employment contract must outline:
- The contract’s beginning and end dates
- The locations where the worker must perform his or her activities
- All fundamental employment conditions, such as payment for transportation expenses incurred, housing, and meals to be provided
- The existence of specific days workers are not required to work (e.g., holidays)
- The number of work hours per day
- The number of workdays per week
- A description of the activities to be performed
- The applicable rate for the activities performed
- The provision of tools, supplies, and equipment
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- Any reasonable deductions to the worker’s compensation
All these provisions must be disclosed to H-2A workers no later than the first day of work. Please note that the information must be written in a language the worker can understand.