H-2A Visas

The U.S. offers a H-2A visa for temporary agricultural workers from different parts of the world, to fill seasonal, agricultural jobs. A U.S. employer must petition the worker and prove that it is offering a job that is of temporary nature; demonstrate that there are not enough U.S. works that are able, willing, qualified, and available to do such a job; show that the temporary worker will not affect wages or working conditions of employed U.S. workers; and, submit a temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. If and when the petition is approved, the temporary worker will need to apply for the visa in the U.S. Consulate in their native country.

Not all workers from any country can apply. USCIS has published an updated list of countries that are eligible to participate in the H-2A program. This list includes the Philippines. If eligible, USCIS will grant a period of stay authorized by the temporary labor certification. However, they may also be extended for up to one year. Each extension will need to also have a new, temporary labor certification from the Department of Labor. The maximum time that a person can stay in the U.S. with an H-2A visa is three years. After three years, the individual must remain outside of the U.S. for at least three months before returning to the U.S. as an H-2A nonimmigrant. Certain periods of time spent in the U.S. may also count toward the three year limit, so consult with an attorney before making a decision to stay or depart the U.S. with a H-2A visa.

Beneficiaries of H-2A visas can also bring their spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age, to the U.S. They will be afforded H-4 status in the U.S.

Employers have the duty to keep USCIS notified of any changes in employment including whether the temporary worker did not report to the scheduled employment date, leaves without notice, is terminated, or finishes the temporary work early. As such, a person with an H-2A and their employers are subject to stringent requirements by USCIS.

The U.S. also offers a similar H-2B program for temporary workers for non-agricultural jobs. The requirements are similar to that of a H-2A but with numerous caveats including a cap on the total number of foreign nationals that may be issued an H-2B. Speak to a knowledgeable attorney if interested in either of these visa programs.

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