Guide to the H-2A Visa for Temporary Agricultural Workers

The H-2A visa program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States for temporary agricultural work. This visa is crucial for the agricultural industry, ensuring that farms and related businesses have access to a reliable workforce during peak seasons.

Eligibility Criteria for the H-2A Visa

To qualify for the H-2A visa, both employers and employees must meet specific requirements:

Employer Requirements

  • Proof of Temporary Need: Employers must demonstrate that their need for agricultural workers is temporary or seasonal.
  • Recruitment Efforts: Employers must attempt to recruit U.S. workers before seeking foreign labor.
  • Compliance with Labor Laws: Employers must offer fair wages and working conditions in line with U.S. labor laws.
  • Approved Labor Certification: Employers must obtain a labor certification from the Department of Labor (DOL).

Employee Requirements

  • Job Offer: Workers must have a job offer from a U.S. employer approved to hire H-2A workers.
  • Nonimmigrant Intent: Workers must intend to return to their home country after their employment ends.
  • Country Eligibility: Workers must be from a country eligible for the H-2A program, as designated by the U.S. government.

Application Process for Employers

Step 1: Filing a Job Order

Employers must submit a job order to the State Workforce Agency (SWA) serving the area of intended employment. The job order must outline the terms and conditions of employment.

Step 2: Applying for Labor Certification

After filing the job order, employers must submit Form ETA-790/790A to the DOL. This form includes details about the job, recruitment efforts, and housing provisions for workers.

Step 3: Recruitment of U.S. Workers

Employers must actively recruit U.S. workers by advertising the job in local newspapers and conducting outreach to local workforce agencies.

Step 4: Submitting the H-2A Petition

Once the DOL approves the labor certification, employers can file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Step 5: Consular Processing

Approved workers must apply for the H-2A visa at a U.S. consulate in their home country. They must attend an interview and provide biometric data.

Application Process for Workers

Step 1: Receiving a Job Offer

Workers must secure a job offer from a U.S. employer participating in the H-2A program.

Step 2: Visa Application

Workers must complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, and pay the required fee. They must schedule an interview at the nearest U.S. consulate.

Step 3: Attending the Interview

During the interview, workers must present their job offer, a valid passport, and other supporting documents. They will also undergo fingerprinting.

Step 4: Entry to the U.S.

Upon visa approval, workers can travel to the U.S. and begin their employment. They must comply with all terms and conditions outlined in their job offer.

Rights and Protections for H-2A Workers

H-2A workers are entitled to several protections under U.S. labor laws, including:

  • Fair Wages: Employers must pay the higher of the federal or state minimum wage, the prevailing wage, or the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR).
  • Housing: Employers must provide free, safe, and sanitary housing.
  • Transportation: Employers must reimburse workers for transportation costs to and from their home country.
  • Workplace Safety: Employers must comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards to ensure a safe work environment.

See More Opportunities

Extensions and Returning Workers

Extension of Stay

Employers can request an extension of stay for H-2A workers by filing Form I-129. Extensions can be granted in increments of up to one year, for a maximum stay of three years.

Returning Worker Program

Workers who have held H-2A status in the past three years may qualify for the returning worker program, which simplifies the visa application process.


The H-2A visa program is essential for meeting the labor demands of the U.S. agricultural sector. By understanding the eligibility criteria, application processes, and worker protections, both employers and employees can navigate the system effectively. This ensures a mutually beneficial arrangement that supports the agricultural economy and provides valuable opportunities for foreign workers.

Helpful Links:

H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers

H-2A Visa Program

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