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How do people come to the U.S. as temporary agricultural workers?

If asked to identify those industries here in the U.S. that have seen steady growth and sustained consumer demand over the last decade, chances are good people would list areas like technology, energy and engineering.

While this may very well be true, this list actually overlooks a sector that, while decidedly less complex or even exciting, is nevertheless always expanding and absolutely vital to the nation's survival: agriculture.

Indeed, the growth of the agricultural industry has long been so strong and so sustained that many U.S.-based employers, agents and associations of agricultural producers look to what is known as the H-2A program for assistance.

What is the H-2A program?

The H-2A program allows the aforementioned parties to bring foreign nationals here to the U.S. to perform agricultural work on a temporary basis.

What exactly do employers have to do under the H-2A program?

The H-2A program requires employers looking to bring foreign nationals to the U.S. to file the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on their behalf.

It's important to understand, however, that this is just one step in the process. Indeed, before filing the necessary Form I-129s, the employer must apply for and receive a temporary labor certification for H-2A workers from the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Are there requirements that employers must satisfy in order to be considered eligible for H-2A classification?

Employers looking to secure H-2A classification must satisfy the following criteria:

  • Show that the jobs being offered to H-2A workers are seasonal or temporary
  • Provide evidence that there is a dearth of U.S. workers able, willing, available and otherwise qualified to do the type of agricultural work in question
  • Demonstrate that the working conditions and wages of similarly situated U.S. workers will not be affected by the hiring of the H-2A workers
  • Submit at least one valid temporary labor certification from the DOL   

We'll continue examining this topic in future posts, including more about how long H-2A workers can stay in the U.S. and whether their family is permitted to join them here.

If you have questions or concerns relating to the H-2A program or any other visa-related issue, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional. 

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