H-2A Seasonal Agricultural Workers Visa

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 a Nonimmigrant Worker, on a prospective worker’s behalf.

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 enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.
  • Show that employing H-2A workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
  • Generally, submit a single valid temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor with the H-2A petition.  (A limited exception to this requirement exists in certain “emergent circumstances.”  See e.g., 8 CFR 214.2(h)(5)(x) for specific details.)

H-2A Program Process

  • Step 1: Petitioner submits temporary labor certification application to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).  Before requesting H-2A classification from USCIS, the petitioner must apply for and receive a temporary labor certification for H-2A workers from DOL. For further information regarding the temporary labor certification requirements and process, see the Foreign Labor Certification, Department of Labor Web page.
  • Step 2:  Petitioner submits Form I-129 to USCIS.  After receiving a temporary labor certification for H-2A employment from DOL, the petitioner must file Form I-129 with USCIS. With limited exceptions, the petitioner must submit original temporary labor certification 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 and 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 in cases where an H-2A visa is not required.

H-2A Eligible Countries List

Except as noted below, H-2A petitions may only be approved for nationals of countries that the secretary of Homeland Security has designated, with the concurrence of the Office of the Secretary of State, 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 in a Federal Register notice. Designation of eligible countries is valid for one year from publication.

Effective Jan. 19, 2021, nationals from the following countries are eligible to participate in the H-2A program:

  • Andorra
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Kiribati
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • North Macedonia
  • Madagascar
  • Malta
  • Moldova
  • Mexico
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Mozambique
  • Nauru
  • The Netherlands
  • Nicaragua
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan*
  • Thailand
  • Timor-Leste
  • Turkey
  • Tuvalu
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay
  • Vanuatu

*Regarding all references to “country” or “countries” in this document, it should be noted that the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96-8, Section 4(b)(1), provides that “[w]henever the laws of the United States refer or relate to foreign countries, nations, states, governments, or similar entities, such terms shall include and such laws shall apply with respect to Taiwan.” See 22 U.S.C. § 3303(b)(1). Accordingly, all references to “country” or “countries” in the regulations governing whether nationals of a country are eligible for H-2 program participation. See 8 CFR 214.2(h)(5)(i)(F)(1)(i) and 8 CFR 214.2(h)(6)(i)(E)(1), are read to include Taiwan. This is consistent with the United States’ one-China policy, under which the United States has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan since 1979.

The secretary of Homeland Security may consider adding a country to the Eligible Country List upon receiving a recommendation from the U.S. Department of State or a written request from an unlisted foreign government, an employer that would like to hire nationals of an unlisted country in H-2A status, or another interested party or parties. When designating countries to include on the list, the secretary of Homeland Security, with the concurrence of the Office of the Secretary of State, will take into account factors that include the following:

  • The country’s cooperation with issuing travel documents for citizens, subjects, nationals and residents of that country who are subject to a final order of removal
  • The number of final and unexecuted (meaning completed but not yet carried out) orders of removal against citizens, subjects, nationals and residents of that country
  • The number of orders of removal executed against citizens, subjects, nationals and residents of that country
  • Other factors as may serve the U.S. interest. See 8 CFR 214.2(h)(5)(i)(F)(1)(i) and 8 CFR 214.2(h)(6)(i)(E)(1).

If you want DHS to consider adding a country to the Eligible Country List, send a written request to DHS’s Office of Policy, or the Department of State at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Country listings are valid for one year. DHS may add a country to the Eligible Country List whenever the secretary of Homeland Security determines that the country is eligible.

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 the national to be the beneficiary of such a petition. See 8 CFR 214.2(h)(2)(iii) and 8 CFR 214.2(h)(5)(i)(F)(1)(ii) for additional evidentiary requirements.

Note: If you request H-2A workers from both eligible and non-eligible countries, USCIS suggests that you file two separate petitions. Filing one petition for workers from eligible countries and a separate petition for workers from non-eligible countries may help decrease delays in processing your request for H-2A workers.

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.

Exception: Certain periods of time spent outside of the United States may “interrupt” an H-2A worker’s authorized stay and not count toward the 3-year limit.  See the Calculating Interrupted Stay for H-2 Classifications Web page for additional information.

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.

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