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Immigration Law Blog

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What are the restrictions on an H2A visa?

The H2A visa is available for employers to bring in foreign nationals in order to fill temporary agricultural jobs. A prospective employer must make an application on the employee’s behalf by filling out form I-129. In order to obtain an H2A visa, the employer must be able to stipulate that the position to be filled is temporary or seasonal in nature and that there are not sufficient American citizens willing, able, and qualified to perform the temporary work. Furthermore, the employment of foreign nationals must not adversely affect the wages or working conditions of American workers. In addition, the petitioner must be in possession of a temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The issuance of H2A visas is limited to nationals from 68 approved countries.  An individual may stay in the United States and work under the temporary visa only for the period of time authorized in the employer’s temporary labor certification, which varies from one employer to another.  If the need for employees is greater than anticipated, an employer may apply for an extension for his or her employees under the H2A program. Each extension lasts one year and the maximum stay permitted under this classification is three years. After this, in order to reapply for H2A status, an individual must leave the United States for 3 uninterrupted months before being allowed to return to work in the United States.  Employers are responsible for providing adequate housing for the workers and to provide transportation to and from the workers’ home countries. There is no cap on the number of H2A visas available annually or on the number of H2A visas allowed for any particular country.

H2A recipients are not residents and they are not immigrants.  There is no path to a green card with a H2A visa. Recipients are required to work during their stay. If their employment ends for any reason, their visa expires. They may leave the country and return, but only if authorized by their employer. If they desire to bring family members with them into this country, they must apply separately for an H4 visa. Family members who are recipients of such H4 visas, however, are not permitted to work during their stay in the United States.

It is not only desirable, but also necessary, to consult with an experienced immigration attorney well versed in the complexities of immigration law before submitting an application. Without such assistance, it is extremely difficult to fully understand the limitations and restrictions on any type of visa.


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