The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet certain requirements to bring foreign nationals of certain countries ("H-2A eligible countries") to the U.S. to fill temporary/seasonal agricultural jobs. The U.S. employers or U.S. agents have to first file an I-129 petition on behalf of the prospective temporary workers.
H-2A eligible countries
The Department of Homeland Security publishes the list of H-2A and H-2B eligible countries annually in a Federal Register notice. Such designation of eligible countries is valid for one year from publication. For the most updated list, please visit: http://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/h-2a-agricultural-workers/h-2a-temporary-agricultural-workers.
An I-129 petition may be filed on behalf of a national from a country not on the list, only if the Secretary of Homeland Security determines that it is in the U.S. interest.
Requirements for H-2A
The U.S. employer must:
1. Offer a job that is temporary or seasonal in nature;
2. Demonstrate there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work; and
3. Show that the employment of H-2A workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
How to apply
1. First, the U.S. employer has to apply for and receive a temporary labor certification for H-2A workers from the Department of Labor (DOL).
2. Next, the U.S. employer has to file a Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker, along with proper Supplements, temporary labor certification, and supporting documents, with USCIS.
3. Once the I-129 petition is approved, you can apply for an H-2A visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of H-2A workers are entitled to H-4 visas/status. H-4 dependents may study, but cannot engage in employment in the U.S.
Period of stay
Generally, USCIS may approve the I-129 petition and grant H-2A classification for up to the period of time authorized on the temporary labor certification. H-2A classification may be extended in increments of up to 1 year each. For each extension request, a new temporary labor certification covering the requested time is needed. The maximum period of stay in H-2A classification is 3 years.
A person who has held H-2A status for a total of 3 years must leave the U.S. and remain outside the U.S. for an uninterrupted period of 3 months before seeking readmission as an H-2A worker. Additionally, previous time spent in other H or L classifications counts toward total H-2A time.