Non-Immigrant Employment Visas Law

H-2A Visas

The agricultural industry relies on temporary labor for planting, maintenance, and harvesting. Many U.S. workers are not willing to endure manual labor for the amount of pay offered by the farming industry. Some employers use foreign workers to fill the need for agricultural work. Employers can hire foreign nationals for temporary agricultural jobs under the H-2A visa program.

Agricultural employers looking for temporary farmworkers should talk to an experienced immigration law attorney for legal advice about the H-2A visa process.

What Is an H-2A Visa?

According to theU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the H-2A classification allows temporary agricultural workers to provide farm labor services for a limited period. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows employers to use temporary nonimmigrant workers if the employer can show there is an insufficient number of U.S. workers willing to do the work.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division regulates wages. U.S. employers have to offer at least the highest of the adverse effect wage rate, prevailing wage, collective bargaining wage, or state minimum wage to workers with an H-2A visa.

Who Is Eligible for an H-2A Visa?

Before applying for an agricultural worker visa, the farmer has to apply for a domestic job order with their local state workforce agency. The employer or agent then applies for a temporary labor certification with the Department of Labor, which makes a final determination of the need for foreign workers.

U.S. employers, labor contractors, or agents file a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on behalf of foreign agricultural workers. The H-2A application has several conditions, including:

  • The job is of a temporary or seasonal nature
  • There are not enough U.S. workers available
  • The temporary agricultural workers will not adversely affect U.S. workers’ compensation
  • That DOL has already issued a temporary labor certification

Most H-2A workers come from neighboring Mexico and go to states like California, Florida, and Georgia. But under the temporary agricultural program, workers can come from more than 80 foreign countries.

How Long Does It Take To Get an H-2A Visa?

The H-2A visa application process can change from year to year, depending on growers’ labor demands. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the standard process for hiring H-2A workers takes about 75 days. But there may be exceptions for emergency or immediate needs.

How Long Can You Stay in the U.S. on an H-2A Visa?

For most H-2A workers, the U.S. government will allow temporary labor stays for the period provided for by the temporary labor certification. But extensions can extend the stay for up to one year. The longest amount of time workers can stay based on their temporary labor classification is three years.

Can I Bring My Family to the U.S.?

Some family members may be eligible for admission based on the worker’s H-2A visa. A spouse and unmarried children under 21 can come to the U.S. based on H-4 nonimmigrant status. But family members aren’t legally allowed to work.

Can H-2A Workers Get a Green Card?

An H-2A visa is a non-immigrant visa. H-2A workers can’t get a green card based on their temporary work visas. But if workers are eligible for other immigrant or non-immigrant visas, H-2A workers can apply for a change of status.

People from other countries can apply to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) based on family or employment eligibility. For example, if you have a family member who becomes an LPR or U.S. citizen, you can try to adjust your status. If you are back in your home country, you can apply through the U.S. consulate or embassy.

How Can I Get Help With an H-2A Visa?

Employers can experience delays with the labor certification process. The government denies some applications because it needs more information. If your visa application is denied, an experienced immigration attorney can help. Your attorney can review your case and help you get approval for temporary migrant workers. Talk to an immigration attorney for legal advice.

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