The H-2A visa allows agricultural employers to bring in foreign workers to perform temporary or seasonal work in the field of agriculture frequently in relation to the production and/or harvesting of a crop. There are no limits on the number of H-2A visas issued each year. An employer may sponsor multiple employees, provided they will perform the same services at the same location and will obtain the visa through the same US consulate. Prior to sponsorship, the employer must first establish that there are no domestic workers available for the position.
Spouses and unmarried children under age 21 may accompany or join the H-2A visa holders on H-4 visa status.
H-2A Quick Facts
- H-2A visa allows foreign workers to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work in the U.S.
- United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently grants approval of H-2A petitions for nationals of certain designated countries who have been determined to be important to the H-2A program. There are 28 countries currently on the list and workers from countries that are not on this list may be included on a case-by-case basis if it serves U.S. interests.
- H-2A visa requires sponsorship by a U.S. employer and the petitioning employer must obtain a temporary labor certification approval from Department of Labor prior to filing the H-2A petition.
- The employer is responsible for providing each worker with housing, transportation and meals when applicable. The wages for the H-2A visa holder must be the same as that for U.S. workers.
- H-2A visa is valid for one year. However, the sponsoring employer may extend the visa every year for another two (2) years. The maximum period of stay permitted on H-2A visa is three (3) years total. The employer must justify the reason for any renewal requests. Updated regulations allow H-2A workers who have completed their maximum period of stay in the U.S. to simply remain outside the U.S. for three (3) months before they are eligible to re-apply for H-2A status.
- Once the temporary or seasonal period of stay expires, H-2A visa holders are allowed a thirty (30) day grace period to wind up before departing from the U.S. or to find another position and file for new H-2A petition with another H-2A employer, or change to another nonimmigrant status.
- H-2A workers may change employers and begin work as soon as the new H-2A petition is filed with USCIS, provided the sponsoring employer participates in the USCIS E-Verify program.
- H-2A visa holders may also change status by applying for other nonimmigrant visa categories if applicable.
- H-2A visa holders may travel in and out of the U.S. freely, as long as the visa is valid (has not expired).
- Spouses and children under age 21 are eligible for H-4 visa but are not allowed to work. H-4 visa holders may attend colleges and schools.
H-2A Visa Process
- The employer must first conduct a domestic search for workers for the proposed job and demonstrate that there are no qualified U.S. workers available for the position.
- On behalf of the employer, our firm applies for temporary labor certification with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
- After DOL approves the labor certification petition, the H-2A visa petition may be filed with USCIS.
- After approval of the petition, the employer notifies the prospective employee. If the employee is outside the country, he/she may apply for H-2A visa at the U.S. consulate in his/her country of origin.