196,409 visas issued in 2018
94% of H-2A visas originate in Mexico
Last updated Nov. 2015
The H-2A nonimmigrant visa program allows employers to hire foreign workers for temporary agricultural jobs. Participation in the H-2A program is contingent on the employer’s showing it tried to locate and hire U.S. workers but was unable to do so. Employers, employer associations, and labor contractors initiate and control the
H-2A visa process by applying to the U.S. government for permission to hire foreign workers for the temporary jobs. The process involves multiple state and federal government agencies, including state-level workforce agencies or state departments of labor, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of State. From start to finish the process may take several months. The employer may begin lining up foreign workers at the same time it is applying for job certification and permission to hire. Once the U.S. government approves the employer, the workers apply for the actual visa and personally appear at the designated U.S. consulate abroad for an interview. Usually, the employer will use a hiring agent, third party recruiter, or another entity to help the workers with their individual visa applications. An H-2A visa only permits temporary agricultural work for a specific employer for a fixed period of time, which initially is less than one year. After the approved work period ends, the worker must leave the United States. There is no path to permanent legal status or citizenship associated with the H-2A visa. If the worker quits or is fired, the visa is no longer valid and the worker must leave the United States.