Employers in the United States have often faced a shortage of available domestic workers who are able, willing and qualified to fill seasonal agricultural jobs. The H-2A program was instituted to meet this need for seasonal and temporary labor, without adding permanent residents to the population.
The H-2A program is authorized by the Immigration and Nationality Act, (INA) sec. 101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(a), 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(a), which permits U.S. employers to bring temporary foreign workers into the United States to perform seasonal agricultural work.
The H-2A program is managed by three federal agencies. The Department of Labor (DOL) issues the H-2 labor certifications and oversees compliance with labor laws; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicates the H-2 petitions, and the Department of State (DOS) issues the visas to the workers at consulates overseas.
There are no annual limitations on the number of temporary foreign H-2A workers that may be admitted into the United States. However, under the current DOL labor certification process, employers must certify that U.S. workers are not available to perform this work before they may hire a nonimmigrant worker. They must also certify that the wages and working conditions meet regional standards.
Since this is a temporary worker program, H-2A nonimmigrant workers coming to the United States to perform seasonal jobs must leave following a maximum period of stay. Some may apply to extend their stay or change/adjust status.