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

Last time, we started discussing how many U.S.-based agricultural companies routinely look to the H2-A program, which allows foreign nationals to perform agricultural work on a temporary basis, to fill their always-growing employee ranks.

Specifically, we talked mostly about the requirements these U.S.-based companies must meet in order to be considered eligible for H-2A classification. In today's post, we'll continue this discussion, looking at what H-2A workers can expect in terms of their rights and responsibilities.

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

Once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approves the employer's Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, the majority of prospective H-2A workers located outside the U.S. will need to apply for an H-2A visa with the State Department at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate. They will also need to seek admission to the U.S. at a port of entry with Customs and Border Protection.

Can H-2A workers come to the U.S. from anywhere?  

No, the law states that only H-2A petitions from countries designated eligible by the Department of Homeland Security can be approved by USCIS. Some of the countries on the list include Canada, Mexico, Poland, El Salvador and Guatemala, to name only a few.

How long can H-2A workers stay in the U.S.?

USCIS is authorized to grant H-2A classification for the period of time authorized by the temporary labor certification up to a maximum stay period of three years.

Extensions of H-2A classifications may be granted in one-year increments provided 1) the three-year limit is observed, and 2) each extension request is accompanied by a new, valid temporary labor certification covering the applicable timeframe.

What happens after the three-year period is up?

After H-2A status has been held for three years, the foreign national is required to leave the U.S. However, they may seek reentry as an H-2A immigrant after an uninterrupted period of three months.

Can family members accompany H-2A workers?

The law permits the spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of H-2A workers to seek admission to the U.S. via the H-4 visa program. However, they are not permitted to work while in this status.

We'll conclude this topic in a future post, examining some of the notification requirements to which H-2A employers are subject.

Consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you have questions or concerns relating to the H-2A program or any other visa-related matter.

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