Under the H-2A nonimmigrant classification, foreign workers from eligible countries may enter the United States to fill temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs. This visa category has specific requirements regarding the worker’s period of stay and extension requests.
In this article, you will find out the key elements you need to know about H-2A visa extensions.
H-2A Temporary Agricultural Visa – Understanding the Program
Created to help US farmers and agricultural firms to fill temporary or seasonal employment gaps, the H-2A program permits US employers who meet specific regulatory requirements to recruit foreign nationals to occupy these jobs.
As prospective workers cannot self-petition, a US employer, agent, or association of US agricultural producers must apply on behalf of the workers. To qualify for the program, the petitioner must:
- Present a job offer of temporary or seasonal nature
- Prove that not enough domestic workers are able, willing, qualified, and available to occupy the positions available
- Demonstrate that bringing in foreign workers will not negatively impact the wages and working conditions of domestic workers in similar employment
With few exceptions, a valid temporary labor certification from the US Department of Labor (DOL) must be submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the application forms.
Once the employer’s petition is approved, foreign nationals can apply at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad. Only H-2A petitions for nationals of eligible countries may be approved by USCIS.
Dependents of a principal H-2A worker (spouse and unmarried children under 21) may apply for the H-4 nonimmigrant classification. Although they are entitled to certain housing and education benefits, they are not eligible for US employment while in H-4 status.
H2A Visa Extension – Taking a Closer Look
The period of stay authorized by USCIS for H-2A visa holders depends on the period authorized on the DOL’s temporary labor certification. US employers may extend an H-2A worker’s status for qualifying employment in increments of up to one year each.
For each extension request, employers must submit a new, valid temporary labor certification covering the requested time. With the extensions included, the maximum period of stay for H-2A workers is three years.
Once the three-year threshold is reached, foreign nationals under H-2A status must depart and remain outside the United States for at least three months uninterruptedly months before seeking readmission under the same status.
Please note that any previous time spent under other H or L nonimmigrant classifications counts toward total H-2A time. Additionally, certain periods spent outside the United States while in H-2A status may interrupt the worker’s authorized stay, not counting toward the three-year limit.
H2A Visa Extension – Seek Guidance from an Expert Immigration Attorney
In the H-2A, the employer must request an extension on behalf of a foreign worker. If the worker cannot convince his or her employer to extend his nonimmigrant status, it is possible to find another H-2A employer or apply for another visa option.
The lack of adequate information and insufficient legal representation may lead to costly mistakes. Whether you are a US employer, or a prospective foreign worker interested in the H-2A program, the best approach is to consult with an expert immigration attorney for individual assessment.