The H-2A visa is a nonimmigrant classification for temporary agricultural workers. With this program, US farmers and agriculture firms that meet specific regulatory requirements can recruit foreign workers from eligible countries to fill temporary jobs in the United States.
In this article, you will discover what the H-2A temporary agricultural visa is.
Understanding the H-2A Visa Program – Basic Requirements
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires US petitioners to handle the processing affairs on behalf of prospective workers. The petitioner can be a US employer, an authorized agent, or an association of US agricultural producers.
To qualify for the H-2A visa program, USCIS requires petitioners to:
- Offer a job of temporary or seasonal nature
- Demonstrate that not sufficient US workers are able, willing, qualified, or available to perform those activities
- Demonstrate that the employment of H-2A workers will not negatively affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed US workers
Seasonal work involves an increase in the demand for workers tied to a certain time of year by an event or pattern (e.g., a short annual growing cycle). Temporary work refers to work that lasts no longer than one year.
Depending on the petitioner’s need, temporary workers under H-2B nonimmigrant status may work at farms, plantations, ranches, orchards, nurseries, greenhouses, or other similar locations.
H-2A Visa Program Requirements – Temporary Labor Certification
The H-2A visa program is a multi-agency effort that involves the USCIS, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the US Department of Labor (DOL). With few exceptions, the H-2A application must include a valid temporary labor certification issued by the DOL.
One of the steps required for petitioners in the temporary labor certification process is to work with the State Workforce Agency to recruit domestic workers.
If there are insufficient US workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to fill the employment gap, the DOL may approve the certification.
Which Countries are Eligible to Participate in the H-2A Visa Program?
The H-2A visa program is limited to nationals of countries designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Office of the Secretary of State.
Every year, the Department of Homeland Security publishes the list of H-2A eligible countries using a Federal Register notice. Once published, the designation is valid for one year (counting from the publication date).
Different factors may lead the US Department of Homeland Security to add or remove countries from the H-2A list. If you want to identify whether your country is eligible, consult with an expert immigration attorney.
Can H-2A Visa Holder Work in the USA? – Taking a Closer Look
H-2A visa holders may work exclusively for the petitioner who originally offered them their jobs. If an H-2A worker wants to change from one farmer to another, the new employer must go through the entire application process to hire the worker.
With a strategic approach, it is possible to adjust status under the H-2A nonimmigrant classification. In most cases, H-2A workers may find a US employer to sponsor them for an employment-based visa or apply for a family-based visa.