Temporary Agricultural Worker (H-2A) Visa

The United States is home to a diverse array of industries, and its economy is powered by workers from all around the world. For individuals seeking to work in the United States, obtaining the necessary visa is a crucial first step. One type of visa that is often sought after by agricultural workers is the Temporary Agricultural Worker (H-2A) Visa. This nonimmigrant visa allows foreign workers to enter the United States to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work. In this article, we will explore the key features of the H-2A visa, including eligibility requirements, application procedures, and important limitations and regulations. By understanding the basics of the H-2A visa, prospective agricultural workers can take the first step towards pursuing their career goals in the United States.

Temporary Agricultural Worker (H-2A) Visa

What is the Temporary Agricultural Worker (H-2A) Visa?

The Temporary Agricultural Worker (H-2A) Visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa that allows foreign nationals to enter the United States to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work. This visa is intended for individuals who have a job offer from a U.S. employer and who are coming to the United States to work in agriculture on a temporary basis. The H-2A visa is subject to specific eligibility requirements, including the demonstration of a shortage of available U.S. workers, and is valid for the period of employment specified in the job offer. H-2A visa holders are required to return to their home country upon completion of their work, and employers must comply with certain regulations related to wages, working conditions, and benefits.

However, there are several potential drawbacks to this visa. For one, the H-2A visa is subject to an annual cap, which means that not all agricultural workers who wish to obtain this visa may be able to do so. Additionally, H-2A visa holders are tied to their sponsoring employers and cannot easily switch jobs or change employers without going through a new application process. This restriction may limit the usefulness of this visa for workers seeking longer-term employment opportunities in other industries.

There have also been concerns about the working conditions of H-2A visa holders. While there are regulations in place to ensure that these workers receive fair wages and working conditions, some critics have raised concerns about potential abuses and exploitation.

The application process for the H-2A visa can be complex and time-consuming, which may deter some potential applicants. Furthermore, while the H-2A visa may provide a path to eventual permanent residency for some workers, it is not a direct path and may require navigating additional legal hurdles.

Benefits of the H-2A visa

The H-2A visa program offers several benefits to both employers and workers. For employers, the program provides a reliable source of temporary or seasonal agricultural workers who are authorized to work in the U.S. This can be particularly helpful for employers who experience labor shortages or who need to hire workers with specific skills or experience. Additionally, the program allows employers to plan their workforce needs in advance, knowing that they will have access to a pool of qualified workers.

For workers, the program offers the opportunity to earn higher wages than they might earn in their home country and gain valuable work experience. H-2A workers are entitled to receive the same wages and benefits as U.S. workers who perform the same job duties, as required by law. They are also entitled to certain protections, such as safe working conditions and freedom from discrimination. In addition, the program allows workers to travel to the U.S. legally and work for a specified period of time, after which they must return to their home country. This can provide workers with the opportunity to support their families and improve their standard of living.

Requirements for the H-2A visa

To obtain an H-2A visa, foreign nationals must meet several requirements. First and foremost, they must have a job offer from a U.S. employer to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work. The employer must demonstrate that there is a temporary need for the foreign worker's services and that there are not enough U.S. workers who are available, willing, and qualified to perform the work.

The employer must also obtain a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that attests to the employer's need for foreign labor and ensures that the job offer meets certain minimum requirements related to wages, working conditions, and other factors. This labor certification process involves demonstrating that the employer has made an effort to recruit U.S. workers for the position and that there are no qualified U.S. workers available.

Additionally, the individual must be admissible to the United States, which means they must not have a criminal record or other issues that would make them ineligible for entry. They must also undergo consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to obtain a visa to enter the United States.

It is important to note that the H-2A visa is specific to agricultural work and is not available for individuals seeking employment in other industries. Moreover, the H-2A program is subject to various regulations and requirements, and employers must comply with these regulations to participate in the program and hire foreign workers.

Eligible countries for the H-2A visa

The H-2A visa program is open to workers from eligible countries that have been designated by the U.S. government. Currently, there are more than 80 countries on the list of eligible countries. The list is subject to change based on the U.S. government's assessment of each country's compliance with H-2A program requirements and the country's level of participation in the program.

Effective Nov. 10, 2022, nationals from the following countries are eligible to participate in the H-2A program:

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

Application process for the H-2A visa

The application process for the H-2A visa involves three distinct steps. First, the employer needs to submit a temporary labor certification application to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to certify that there is a need for foreign labor. The employer must provide evidence to demonstrate that there are not enough available U.S. workers to fill the positions, and that hiring foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar positions. The DOL will review the application and issue a temporary labor certification if it meets the necessary criteria.

Secondly, once the employer has received the temporary labor certification, they must file Form I-129 with USCIS, along with the original copy of the temporary labor certification. There are some exceptions where the original copy of the temporary labor certification is not required, but these are limited. Employers must also include evidence of their ability to pay the offered wage and evidence of the terms and conditions of employment.

Finally, prospective H-2A workers who are outside the U.S. must apply for an H-2A visa with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. The worker must provide proof of their eligibility for the H-2A visa, including proof of a job offer from a U.S. employer, the temporary labor certification, and evidence of their qualifications and ability to perform the required job duties. Once the visa is approved, the worker can then seek admission to the U.S. with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port of entry.


In conclusion, the H-2A visa program can be a valuable resource for agricultural employers who need temporary or seasonal workers, and for workers who are looking for opportunities to earn higher wages and gain valuable experience. However, the application process for the H-2A visa can be complex and time-consuming, and it is important to ensure that all eligibility requirements are met and all necessary documents are submitted in a timely manner.

For employers, it is recommended to start the application process as early as possible, ideally several months in advance of the expected start date for the workers. This can help to ensure that there is enough time to obtain a temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor and to file the Form I-129 with USCIS.

For workers, it is important to carefully review the job offer and contract before accepting a position, and to ensure that all promised wages and benefits are provided in accordance with U.S. labor laws. It is also important to familiarize oneself with the terms and conditions of the visa, including the requirement to return to one's home country after the period of authorized employment.

In addition, it is recommended to consult with an experienced immigration attorney or other qualified professional to assist with the application process and to answer any questions or concerns that may arise.

Overall, the H-2A visa program can provide important benefits to both employers and workers in the agricultural industry, but it is important to approach the application process with care and attention to detail.

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