H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers
The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. A U.S. employer,a U.S. agent as described in the regulations,or an association of U.S. agricultural producers named as a joint employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on a prospective worker’s behalf.
Who is Covered
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is administered by the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) of the Employment Training Administration (ETA). The INA covers agricultural employers seeking to hire temporary agricultural workers under H-2A visas.
The work to be performed must be “of a temporary (or seasonal) nature,” meaning employment that is performed at certain seasons of the year, usually in relation to the production and/or harvesting of a crop, or for a limited time period of less than one year when an employer can show that the need for the foreign workers(s) is truly temporary.
Who May Qualify for H-2A Classification
To qualify for H-2A nonimmigrant classification, the petitioner must:
- Offer a job that is of a temporary or seasonal nature.
- Demonstrate that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.
- Show that the employment of H-2A workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
- Generally, submit with the H-2A petition, a single valid temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. (A limited exception to this requirement exists in certain “emergent circumstances.”
H-2A Program Process
Step 1: Petitioner submits temporary labor certification application to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Prior to requesting H-2A classification from USCIS, the petitioner must apply for and receive a temporary labor certification for H-2A workers with DOL. For further information regarding the temporary labor certification requirements and process, see the Foreign Labor Certification, Department of Labor page.
Step 2: Petitioner submits Form I-129 to USCIS. After receiving a temporary labor certification for H-2A employment from DOL, the employer should file Form I-129 with USCIS. With limited exceptions, the original temporary labor certification must be submitted as initial evidence with Form I-129. (See the instructions to Form I-129 for additional filing requirements.)
Step 3: Prospective workers outside the United States apply for visa and/or admission. After USCIS approves Form I-129, prospective H-2A workers who are outside the United States must:
Apply for an H-2A visa with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, then seek admission to the United States with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port of entry; or
Directly seek admission to the United States in H-2A classification with CBP at a U.S. port of entry, if a worker does not require a visa.
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