The H-2A visa permits US agricultural employers to employ foreign workers to fill temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs. In recent years, many agricultural firms and producers have been relying on the H-2A program to guarantee the constant availability of capable workers.
In this article, you will have an overview of how the H-2A visa works.
How Does US Visa H-2A Work? – Understanding the Application Process
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides that foreign nationals may not self-petition for an H-2A visa. A US employer, a US agent (as described in the regulations), or an association of US agricultural producers must apply on a prospective worker’s behalf.
In the application process, the US petitioner must:
- Present a job offer that is temporary or seasonal
- Demonstrate that there are not sufficient US workers able, willing, qualified, and available to perform such activities
- Prove that bringing H-2A workers to the country will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of US workers in similar employment
- Submit a valid temporary labor certification from the US Department of Labor (DOL)
How Does US Visa H-2A Work? – Eligible Countries
Once the petitioner’s application is approved, prospective workers must apply for H-2A job offers at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad. USCIS has a specific list of eligible countries to participate in the H-2A program.
The Department of Homeland Security publishes the annual list of H-2A eligible countries in a Federal Register notice. Once published, the list of eligible countries is valid for one year.
The expiration of an H-2A visa is generally associated with the period authorized on the temporary labor certification. H-2A visa holders may extend their status in increments of up to one year each. Given the renewal possibilities, the maximum period of stay is three years.
How Does US Visa H-2A Work? – Benefits of H-2A Visa Holders
The H-2A visa is a temporary agricultural work visa, which results in short-term applicability and limitations on the type of activity to be performed. However, this type of visa is relatively flexible and offers several benefits.
The spouse and unmarried children (under 21) of an H-2A visa holder may seek admission to the United States under H-4 nonimmigrant status. The dependents of H-2A visa holders are entitled to housing and education benefits, such as public education for dependent children.
While in H-2A status, visa holders have the right to travel inside and outside the United States. H-2A workers are entitled to the same rights as temporary US workers, including prevailing wages, provision of housing and transportation, employment standards, and fair worker’s compensation.
How Does US Visa H-2A Work? – Limitations and Drawbacks
While they can personally qualify for work visas, dependents of H-2A visa holders have no work authorizations under H-4 nonimmigrant status.
The H-2A visa is restricted to a list of countries issued by the Department of Homeland Security. With very few exceptions, only foreign nationals from those specific countries may be accepted as H-2A temporary workers.
Once the 3-year maximum stay is over, H-2A workers must depart and remain outside the United States for three uninterrupted months before applying for readmission. Please note that any previous time spent under H or L nonimmigrant status counts toward total H-2A time.