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The H-2A Visa Application Process for Farm Workers

September 24, 2019 in Employment Immigration

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Many farmers rely on temporary workers from foreign countries to keep their operations going, especially during certain seasons. In order to lawfully employ these workers, farmers must properly apply for and obtain the necessary H-2A visas. This type of visa exists specifically to allow nationals of foreign countries to lawfully enter and temporarily live in the United States for agricultural work. 

It is critical for farmers to strictly follow the process of hiring H-2A workers, as failing to do so can result in costly penalties by immigration authorities. The following is a brief description of the H-2A application process. To discuss your specific situation, contact our H-2A visa lawyers directly. 

Standard Applications

If you are planning ahead for seasonal employees, the standard application process should be sufficient. The process can take about 75 days to complete successfully, and it involves the following steps, among others:

  • Pre-file with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Foreign Labor Certification unit
  • Submit your completed application file to the Department of Labor (DOL) for temporary labor certification
  • If you successfully receive labor certification, you will need to complete and file a petition for H-2A visas with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • Have the foreign workers you have recruited apply for their individual visas with the Department of State, including sitting for interviews at their U.S. consulate
  • Workers with approved visas will report to the farm worksite on the appropriate date with careful records of their arrival and departure

The process of obtaining the labor certification can be extensive and complex, as it involves showing both that there are not U.S. workers who are able and willing to fulfill your needs, as well as that foreign temporary labor will not affect the working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. It is important to have the guidance of an H-2A visa lawyer to ensure there are no unnecessary delays or complications. 

Emergency Need for Workers within 75 Days

If you realize the need for workers within 75 days, the standard application process may take too long, and you might consider the emergency filing process. Our legal team can evaluate whether the emergency filing process is the right move in your situation. In this case, you should submit your filing with the state TWC at the same time as your application with the DOL for labor certification. 

When you receive your certification from the DOL, you can then follow the remaining steps as you would during the standard process, including applying with USCIS and having your workers apply for their visas with their consulates.  

Immediate Need for Workers within 44 Days

If you need agricultural labor within 44 days or sooner, you should directly email the Department of Labor. The email should have a specific subject line and should inquire whether there is enough time for H-2A visa processing before you need the workers to start. You will also need to give adequate justification for using this emergency process. Always speak with an immigration lawyer before you send the email to ensure your communication is processed as needed.

Extending H-2A Visas for Current Workers

If you currently have H-2A workers and their visas are expiring, you have the ability to apply for an extension of their visas so they can work longer. There are two options for farmers in this position:

  • Short-term extension – Submit a petition for the two-week or less extension to USCIS
  • Long-term extension – Submit a petition for the two-week or longer extension to USCIS, as well as notify the Department of Labor and provide an explanation for the extension request

No matter what your situation might be, it is important to have legal assistance when trying to hire H-2A visa workers. Any errors can cause denials or delays, which can cost your farm money. Instead of jumping into the process without advice, it is worth it to take the time to consult with an immigration law firm that regularly handles H-2A visa applications. It can save you time, stress, and expenses to know you will have the workers you need. 

Call an Experienced Austin H-2A Visa Lawyer for More Information

At the law firm of Farmer, Farmer & Brown, our H-2A visa lawyers help farmers and agricultural businesses obtain the proper visas for the workers they need. If you need temporary labor and want to hire foreign workers, please call (512) 894-2128 or contact us online to set up a consultation and discuss your options and the application process.

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