The visa process can seem intimidating and even a little tedious. If you currently employ H-2A employees, or are thinking of doing so, there are some items employers should know before hiring. Employers do have some obligations on their end that they are responsible for in the visa process. Here’s a breakdown of everything employers need to know regarding H2-A visas.
What is an H-2A Visa?
An H-2A visa authorizes the lawful admission into the U.S. of temporary, nonimmigrant workers to perform agricultural labor or services temporarily or seasonally. The visa is intended to help agricultural businesses fill any seasonal labor gaps without eliminating opportunities for employment within their local market. While the visa is meant for temporary or seasonal work, it can be extended in increments of up to one year, more a maximum of three years.
What Are the Employer Requirements?
The first step is for the employer to submit the temporary labor certification application to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Employers must submit this application prior to obtaining H-2A classification from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The second step is to submit Form I-129 to USCIS. After the employers receive their temporary labor certification from step one, they will need to submit Form I-129, which is the federal form to petition for a nonimmigrant worker. Employers will complete this for the employees they are sponsoring (named beneficiaries on the form).
After the USCIS approves Form I-129, the employees seeking the H-2A visa will need to apply for the H-2A visa with the DOL at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
What Are the Employer Obligations to H-2A Employees?
In addition to submitting applications to the DOL and USCIS, employers have an obligation to their H-2A visa employees once they are employed by the employer in the U.S.
Employers are responsible for obtaining transportation for the hired workers from their home country to the job site in the U.S. Employers are also obligated to provide housing, meals, and transportation. The employer must provide housing—whether an off-site rental, housing owned by the business, or other—to the H-2A employees since they do not have places to stay during their temporary employment. During the workday, employers are responsible for either providing three meals a day or adequate meal preparation areas on the job site. If housing is off-site for these employees, employers must provide transportation to the job site.
If you are looking to hire workers on an H-2A visa, but don’t know where to start or feel overwhelmed, Harbor America can help. Our team of human resource management professionals will help you determine if this process is not only right for your business needs but also help ensure you are meeting all compliance requirements. Contact us to learn more about how we can assist.
 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers
 U.S. Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #26: H-2A Immigration