In 1986, the H‐2A Program was created under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to help agricultural employers obtain an adequate labor supply while also protecting the jobs, wages, and working conditions of U.S. farm workers. The program allows a U.S. employer anticipating a shortage of domestic agricultural workers to hire foreign full-time workers on a temporary basis to perform agricultural work. The employer must first receive a temporary labor certification from the Department of Labor (Labor) before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can approve a visa petition for H‐2A workers.
Labor’s OFLC within the Employment and Training Administration handles H‐2A applications for a temporary labor certification, and ensures a condition of certification that qualified U.S. workers are not available for the job and the employment of temporary foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed. Labor’s Wage and Hour Division enforces the terms and conditions of the agricultural work contract and worker protections under the H‐2A Program.
The process of obtaining a temporary labor certification from the OFLC under the H‐2A Program involves the following basic steps:
- Step 1: Filing a Job Order with the State Workforce Agency (SWA)
- Step 2: Filing an H2A Application with the Chicago National Processing Center (NPC)
- Step 3: Conducting Recruitment for U.S. Workers
- Step 4: Completing the Temporary Labor Certification Process
- Step 5: Submitting Form I-129 to USCIS
- Step 6: Prospective workers outside the United States apply for visa and/or admission