The H-2A visa is a non-immigrant visa designed to help temporary or seasonal agricultural workers enter the US in order to work in the agriculture sector. Temporary agricultural workers are those completing work that does not take more than one year to complete. While seasonal agricultural workers are workers completing specific seasonal tasks.
Period of Stay
H-2A Visa expiration dates are authorized on the temporary labor certification with the possibility to extend in 1-year increments up to 3 years (maximum stay).
To be eligible for the H-2A visa, you must:
- Find a US job offering temporary/ seasonal agricultural work
- Proof the applicant plans to return home after the completion of the specified work
- The applicant is from an approved county
If you are not from an approved country, it is still possible to obtain an H-2A visa. A US employer will need to contact the Department of Homeland Security with your name, date of birth, country of birth, and country of citizenship. They will also need to provide evidence that the US will benefit from providing the requested visa. Homeland Security will then evaluate the request and possibly update the approved countries list.
To qualify, the petitioner must:
- Offer a job that is temporary or seasonal
- Demonstrate that there are not enough US workers who are able, willing, qualified, to do the work
- Show that employing H-2A workers will not affect the wages of other US workers
- Generally need to submit a single valid temporary labor certification from the US Department of Labor with the H-2A petition
How to Apply
Before the applicant files for an H-2A visa, the employer/petitioner completes a few steps. Once this has been completed, the applicant must complete the following steps:
Step 1: Complete the DS-160 form online
Step 2: Pay the application fee
Step 3: Schedule and complete a visa interview
Step 4: If the application is approved, the applicant needs to apply for visa stamping
There are only 3 steps that an H-2A petitioner must do in order to hire temporary foreign workers in the United States. Those steps include:
Step 1: Submit a temporary labor certification application to the US Department of Labor
Step 2: Submits Form I-129 to USCIS
Step 3: Foreign workers outside the US apply for a visa once the Form I-129 is approved
Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the H-2A Visa Processing Time?
The processing time for applications varies due to the nature of the work being completed by the applicant. Typically, employers will file the paperwork at least 60 days and no more than 120 days before they need the worker to start. This type of visa is a priority for the US government and they will expedite the application.
How long is my H-2A Visa Valid for?
The H-2A visa is valid for one year and the employee is expected to return to their home country at the end of that time period. An extension may be applied for if the work has not been completed or the applicant has found a new employer. The extension is for another year. The employee may only apply for two extensions. Once the maximum length of time in the US (3 years) has been reached, the employee must return to their country of origin but can reapply for a new H-2A visa after being home for 3 uninterrupted months.
Can I change my H-2A Visa into a different visa?
If you find a job that requires a different type of visa you may apply for a new visa. For example, if you found a job in a technical field, you could apply for an H-1B visa. However, this requires that your new employer follow the appropriate steps to secure the new visa. You may also choose to file for a Green Card.
Why would my application be denied for an H-2A Visa?
Your application might be denied if:
- There are enough US workers who can complete the work
- The employer did not file the paperwork properly
- The employer did not attempt to recruit US workers
- The employer can not meet the requirements for the care of the employee
- The employer has previously violated the conditions of the H-2A Visa
Can I bring my family with me?
Yes! You will need to have your spouse and children under 21 apply for an H-4 Visa. This type of visa does not allow the holder to work. However, they may apply to change their visa status if they find employment.
Need Professional Help Applying for an H-2A Visa?
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