How long does an H-2A visa last?
An H-2A visa lasts as long as the validity of the labor certification — typically, a period of months. If the appropriate need is shown, however, it can be renewed in increments of up to one year, for a maximum period of stay of three years. For each one-year extension, however, new labor certification is required.
Once you have used your three years of stay, you will be required to exit the United States for at least three months before you can return in H-2A visa status. Time spent in H or L status counts against your three-year limit.
What is meant by the ‘temporary or seasonal nature’ of agricultural labor?
‘Temporary or seasonal nature’, when applied to agricultural work, typically refers to work involving periodic annual demand such as planting or harvesting. Other types of temporary or seasonal needs are possible as well. A need is not generally classified as temporary or seasonal if it continues for as long as a year.
Can I travel on an H-2A visa?
Yes, you may travel freely outside of the United States during the term of your visa validity — you are not required to notify the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or to obtain advance parole. Keep in mind that time spent outside the United States while invalid H-2A status counts against your authorized period of stay — in other words, the clock is still ticking.
How Long Does It Take to Process an H-2A Visa?
Processing times vary for H-2A visas. The general advice, however, is to begin the application process 60 to 120 days before the anticipated start date of the H-2A employers.
Can I bring my family with me to the United States?
You can bring your spouse and your unmarried children under 21 years of age to the US under H4 visa status. They will not be admitted automatically – they must each apply for admission to the United States.
Their authorized period of stay will coincide with yours, except that they may “follow to join” you later. Your H4 family members may not work in the United States. They may study full-time or part-time, however, with no need to seek an F-1 student visa.
Can I change my status while on an H-2A visa?
Yes, you can apply for another nonimmigrant visa status while in H-2A visa status. The H-2A visa is not “portable”, however, like the H-1B is. If you are changing jobs or employers, your employer will have to file a new Form I-129 on your behalf.
Can I study on an H-2A visa?
You can study part-time on an H-2A visa. You cannot study full-time, however, and you cannot study so much, even if only part-time, that it interferes with the primary purpose of your visa, which is temporary agricultural employment.
Under what circumstances can my labor certification application be denied?
It would be impossible to briefly state every single one of the reasons why an H-2A visa application might be denied. Some of the most common reasons, however, include:
- The application was filed too late and there was not sufficient time to establish that no qualified US worker was able, willing, and available to do the job;
- The employer failed to complete US worker recruitment requirements, despite having sufficient time;
- The employer took actions that adversely affected the condition of US workers after the labor condition application was submitted; or
- The employer was adjudicated to have violated H-2A visa regulations at some point during the last two years (on behalf of a prior foreign worker).
Have there been any adjustments made to the H-2A visa program due to the COVID 19 crisis?
Yes. In order to ensure the security of food production and distribution, H-2A restrictions have been loosened up a bit. H-2A employers may, for example, change employers and start work even before the USCIS approves Form I-129 for the new employer. Although these new measures are temporary, they are expected to persist well into 2021.
Because the U.S government has prioritized the approval of H-2A visas, it expedites the process due to the fact that seasonal agricultural work is a critical part of the national food supply chain.