Guide to H-2A work visa USA
H-2A is the second type of non-immigrant US work visa that is mainly for two types of workers:
- Temporary agricultural workers with the H-2A visa
- Temporary non-agricultural workers with the H-2B visa
H2A visa is generally for those individuals who are willing to work in agriculture for a small period. To get more information regarding the H-2A visa. Keep on reading the guide.
What is an H-2A visa?
The H-2A visa is a non-immigrant visa that grants employment opportunities in the US, usually for temporary agricultural workers. However, if US employers wish to employ foreign workers, they first need to meet some basic requirements.
Who can apply for an H-2A visa?
Only those US employers who own farms and require foreign employees to work on them are granted to apply for the H-2A visa. The US employers must follow the mentioned criteria:
- The position that US employers are offering must be temporary and for seasonal agricultural work.
- US employers require to prove that US workers are either not qualified to work or are not willing to work at this job position.
- Also, US employers have to prove that the presence of foreign employees will not affect the working environment of the US employees.
- Employers must have required documents and approval of petition form from USCIS.
Apart from the US employers, some other criteria need to be met by foreign employees:
- Foreign employees need to look for the confirmed job offers in the temporary agricultural work.
- Employees have to present proof that they have an intention to return to their home country.
Employees should be from the designated country since the employees from all the countries are not allowed to apply for H2A work visas.
Moreover, if US employers want to appoint the workers from those countries that are not on the list, then they will have to follow some additional processes:
- Employers will require to request the department of homeland security (DHS) regarding the hiring of foreign employees.
- You will need to present the proof that that work will contribute to the United States.
After hiring the foreign worker from the country that is not on the list, if the US government feels that the workers are benefiting the US then they will update the list and include the country name in the list.
How to Apply for an H2A Visa
Once you are eligible to apply for an H2A visa, it’s time to continue its application process. Both US employers and foreign employees need to fill applications for an H2A visa. By following the below-given steps, you can successfully apply for the H2A visa.
Step 1: Find a job.
Prior to applying for the H2A visa, the foreign worker must check if they have confirmed job offers from US employers. It is also been recommended that the foreign employee should read the work contract and adequately go through the employer’s petition and offer if it’s still valid.
Step 2: Certification from DOL
After that, the next step of the H-2A visa application is to be completed by the US employers who are willing to hire foreign employers for agriculture work need to obtain certification from the U.S Department of Labor. The certification can be obtained by filling the below-given forms.
- Form ETA-790 – Agricultural and Food Processing Clearance Order (job offer)
- Form ETA-9142A – Foreign Labor Certification
Form ETA-790 needs to be submitted by the US employer to the state workforce agency where the foreign employee has to work. The form should be submitted 60 to 75 days before the employer requires foreign agricultural workers. Along with this form, the US employer also needs to file the form ETA-9142A to Chicago national processing center (NPC) 45 days prior to the need of employees.
Seeing the form, the US Department of Labor (DOL) can easily verify why US employers wish to appoint foreign employers. This form will also prove that US employers did not find reliable US employees to work at this position. Also, this certification will ensure that foreign employees will not affect the wages of US employees.
The Chicago national processing center will process this certification, and a decision will be given to the employer 30 days prior to the need of foreign employees. After obtaining the Department of labor certification, US employers can proceed to the next step of filing the H2A visa application.
Submit the petition to USCIS
The other step involved in the H2A visa application is to file the petition form with USCIS. This form allows foreign workers to get employed in the US-based company. The US employer files the petition by filing the application form I-129 to USCIS, and it’s a processing fee of $460 is to be paid by the employer. Therefore, every employer who is willing to hire foreign workers must file the petition form.
Once the employer has submitted the petition form to USCIS, they will review the form, and if everything seems fine, USCIS will approve the form. Upon approval, USCIS will provide form I-797; this will indicate that foreign employees can now apply for an H-2A visa and are granted to work in the US.
Apply for the H2A visa.
After USCIS has approved the petition form submitted by the US employer, the applicant can proceed to the final step of applying for an H2A visa application from their home country with the U.S. Department of State at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The applicant will require filing the DS-160 form and submitting it online. Once you have submitted the application form, then you will require scheduling an H-2A interview appointment by visiting the nearest US embassy or consulate.
List of document that needs to be brought by foreign employees during an interview:
- The candidate will require to present the receipt of the application form DS-160 during the visa application interview.
- Bring the application form I-129 and I-797 that confirm the USCIS approval.
- Valid passport
- A photograph of the applicant that fulfills the US Visa digital image requirements
- Applicants are required to carry the documents to the Visa application interview, which confirms that the applicant intends to return to the home country after the visa expiry.
- If your family member is also joining you, you will require submitting the documents proving the family member’s identity.
While submitting the documents make sure that all the documents are in the English language, in case the documents are in any other language, it’s better to hire certified translators from global translators that offer USCIS Certified Translation Services USA.
How long does it take to process H-2A visas?
The processing time of an H-2A visa might vary depending upon the application; at times, it gets processed quickly as it is a seasonal employment opportunity. Moreover, it has been highly recommended for US employers to submit the petition form to USCIS 60 days before they need foreign workers.
The US government keeps H –2A Visa on a priority basis because the agricultural work is seasonal. Therefore, if the application is not processed on time, it might affect the business of the US employers.
How long is an H-2A visa valid?
As you know, the H-2A visa is a non-migrant temporary visa that is valid for a maximum of one year. Once Visa gets expired, the applicant will require returning to their home country. Moreover, if the employees’ work has not been completed yet and US employers still require their services, or if the foreign employee has found any other employer, then in such a situation, an H-2A visa can be extended.
The visa can be extended up to 1 year, and the amount of time till foreign employees can stay in the United States by extending their Visa is three years. This states that the foreign employees are only limited to extend their H-2A visa two times. Once foreign employees had stayed in the United States continuously for three years, then they will require to return to their home country. After staying in the home country continuously for three months, only then they will be granted to apply for the US visa again.
Is it possible to change the status of an H-2A visa?
Several people are confused if they can adjust their status from an H-2A visa to a green card; the answer is yes, they can adjust their status to different types of green cards, be it family-based green card or employment-based green card.
Why would the U.S Embassy deny my H-2A visa?
Some of the reasons due to which the US embassy might reject the H –2A visa, the reasons for rejection are mostly related to the employer is sponsoring the foreign employees.
- One of the primary reasons for the rejection of an H-2A visa is that several US workers can work at this job position.
- The US-based employer looking to hire a foreign employee did not submit the required certification and petition forms with USCIS on time. The employees failed to prove the US workers’ unavailability to work at this job position.
- Employees did not fulfill the requirements, including providing compensation, meals, transportation, and housing.
- If any time in the past, the US employers have violated the visa terms, then there are more chances of the application getting denied by the US embassy.
Can my family join me when on an H-2A visa?
Yes, the immediate family members (spouse and children below 21 years of age) of the H -2A Visa holders are granted to join them to the United States by applying for an H-4 visa. But, holding this visa, they cannot get employed in the US. The immediate family members of H-1 visas are only allowed to work in the United States. However, H-4 visa holders might also get employed in some situations under the employment authorization document program.
If the H-2A visa holder is applying for an extension of the Visa, then their dependent children and spouse are also required to apply for the extension of their H-4 visa. However, suppose a family member of an H-2A visa holder gets a confirmed job in the United States, and the requirement is to apply for H-2A Visa. In that case, they can adjust their status if their employers are ready to follow the required procedure.
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