The H-2A Visa: The Basics

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The H-2A Visa is for temporary agricultural workers. An employer, in need of labor hands, can use this visa to hire immigrants on a temporary basis. The period of stay for an H-2A Visa is up to one year, or to the amount of time specified on the employers labor certificate filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. However, upon new labor certificates and H-2A Visa extensions, an H-2A Visa holder’s period of stay can be as long as three years.

As for the family of an H-2A Visa holder, the spouse and any children under the age of 21 and who are unmarried may accompany the H-2A Visa Holder. However, the family will need to acquire an H-4 Visa, which does not permit employment. Meaning, an H-4 Visa holder generally cannot work and cannot request employment from USCIS through the Employment Authorization Process (EAD).

As a general rule, after three years, an H-2A Visa holder and his family must (1) leave the United States, (2) return to their home country for at least three months, and (3) may then return on a new visa if they so choose. However, what is the date of a 3-year limit can be confusing.

  1. First, any previous time spent on another H Visa or an L Visa will count towards the 3-year limit. An H-2A Visa holder should be cognizant of this.
  2. Second, an H-2A Visa holder may have accrued “interrupted” stays within the period of stay. Meaning, if an H-2 Visa Holder spends “qualifying” time outside of the United States during an authorized period of stay, that time is subtracted from the 3-year limit.

Qualifying time is described below:

While on H-2 Status for 18 months or less: While on H-2 Status for more than 18 months, but less than 3 years:
45 days outside the U.S., but less than 3 months 2 months outside the U.S., but less than 3 months

An interrupted stay may become important if periods of stays from other visas may lead to a 3-year limit violation, which could bar the immigrants re-admission to the United States on another visa for 3 years or 10 years.

As a final note, the following list of countries signifies the nationals that are eligible to receive an H-2A Visa (List Effective January 18, 2016):

Andorra
Argentina
Australia
Austria
Barbados
Belgium
Belize
Brazil
Brunei
Bulgaria
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Czech Republic
Denmark
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
El Salvador
Estonia
Ethiopia
Fiji
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Grenada
Guatemala
Haiti
Honduras
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Kiribati
Latvia
Lichtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macedonia
Madagascar
Malta
Mexico
Moldova
Monaco
Montenegro
Nauru
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Norway
Panama
Papua New Guinea
Peru
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Samoa
San Marino
Serbia
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
Solomon Islands
South Africa
South Korea
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Thailand
The Netherlands
The Philippines
Timor-Leste
Tonga
Turkey
Tuvalu
Ukraine
United Kingdom
Uruguay
Vanuatu

For more information on the matter, please review the USCIS website. (Link provided here). If you have any questions about attaining an H-2A visa, you should speak with a local immigration attorney.

 

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