H2A Temporary Agricultural Workers

The H-2A program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs for which U.S. workers are not available. H-2A nonimmigrant classification applies to aliens seeking to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature in the United States on a temporary basis. A U.S. employer must file a petition on a worker’s behalf.

To qualify for H-2A nonimmigrant classification:

  • The job offered must be of a temporary or seasonal nature
  • The employer must demonstrate that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work
  • The employer must show that the employment of H-2A workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers
  • Generally, a single, valid temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor must be submitted with the H-2A petition.

H-2A Program Process

  • Step 1: Employer Submits Temporary Labor Certification Application to the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Step 2: Employer Submits a petition to USCIS.
  • Step 3: Prospective Workers Outside the United States Apply for Visa and/or Admission.

H-2A Eligible Countries List

H-2A petitions may only be approved for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, as eligible to participate in the H-2A program. The list of H-2A eligible countries is published in a notice in the Federal Register by the Department of Homeland Security on a rolling basis. Designation of countries on the H-2A list of eligible countries is valid for one year from publication.

Effective Jan. 18, 2012, nationals from the following countries are eligible to participate in the H-2A program: Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Nauru, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Vanuatu. A national from a country not on the list may only be the beneficiary of an approved H-2A petition if the Secretary of Homeland Security determines that it is in the U.S. interest for that alien to be the beneficiary of such a petition.

Period of Stay

Generally, USCIS may grant H-2A classification for the period of time authorized on the temporary labor certification (usually authorized for no longer than one (1) year). H-2A classification may be extended for qualifying employment in increments of up to one (1) year. The maximum period of stay in H-2A classification is three (3) years.

An individual who has held H-2A nonimmigrant status for a total of three (3) years is required to depart and remain outside the United States for an uninterrupted period of three (3) months before seeking readmission as an H-2A nonimmigrant.

Family of H-2A Workers

Any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of an H-2A worker may seek admission in H-4 nonimmigrant classification. Family members in H-4 nonimmigrant classification may not engage in employment in the United States.