H2A Agricultural Job

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 a petition on a prospective worker’s behalf.

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; submit a single valid temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Worker Outside the US. Prospective workers outside the United States apply for visa and/or admission.  After USCIS approves the petition, 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.

Worker Inside the US. Prospective workers who have been admitted and are legally in the US can apply for the change of status to the H-2A while remaining in the United States.  

H-2A Eligible Countries List. H-2A petitions may only be approved for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as eligible to participate in the H-2A program. The Department of Homeland Security publishes the list of H-2A and H-2B eligible countries annually in a Federal Register notice. Designation of eligible countries is valid for one year from publication.

Effective Jan. 18, 2014, nationals from the following countries are eligible to participate in the H-2A program: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Nauru, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, The Philippines, Poland, Romania, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu.

Period of Stay. Generally, USCIS may grant H-2A classification for up to the period of time authorized on the temporary labor certification.  H-2A classification may be extended for qualifying employment in increments of up to 1 year each. A new, valid temporary labor certification covering the requested time must accompany each extension request. The maximum period of stay in H-2A classification is 3 years.

A person who has held H-2A nonimmigrant status for a total of 3 years must depart and remain outside the United States for an uninterrupted period of 3 months before seeking readmission as an H-2A nonimmigrant.   Additionally, previous time spent in other H or L classifications counts toward total H-2A time.

Family of H-2A Workers. An H-2A worker’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may seek admission in H-4 nonimmigrant classification.  Family members are not eligible for employment in the United States while in H-4 status.

Employment-Related Notifications to USCIS. Petitioners of H-2A workers must notify USCIS within 2 workdays if any of the following occur:
  • No show: The H-2A worker fails to report to work within 5 work days of the latter of:
    • The employment start date on the H-2A petition, or
    • The start date established by the employer; 
  • Abscondment: The H-2A worker leaves without notice and fails to report for work for 5 consecutive workdays without the consent of the employer; 
  • Termination: The H-2A worker is terminated prior to the completion of  the H-2A labor or services for which he or she was hired; or
  • Early Completion: The H-2A worker finishes the labor or services for which he or she was hired more than 30 days earlier than the date specified in the H-2A petition.