H-2A Visas: Temporary Agricultural Workers

H-2A temporary agricultural workers play an essential role in the economy and food security of the United States.  Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Consular Section continues to update our processing to ensure the safety and health of applicants and Embassy staff.  See below for information on H-2A visa application procedures.

The Nonimmigrant Visa (NIV) Unit resumed processing a limited number of H-2A agricultural worker applications on October 1, 2020.  First-time applicants require in-person interviews.  H-2A applicants who have previously been issued at least one H-2A visa in the last 48 months may not require an in-person interview.  Applicants requiring an interview must select an appointment date through the U.S. Visa Appointment Service.  If the selected day and time would not permit a timely arrival in the United States, applicants may request an expedited appointment by selecting the “Request Expedite” option on the U.S. Visa Appointment Service.  Submission of an expedite request does not guarantee approval of an expedited appointment.

H-2A Seasonal Agricultural Workers – The H-2A visa allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs, for which U.S. workers are not available.  Applicants can work temporary jobs in agriculture, construction, forestry, and many other kinds of industries.

For employers who want to petition for an H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker, please visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services H-2A webpage.

For applicants, before you can apply for an H-2A visa at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) must approve an I-129 petition and a labor certification from your employer.  USCIS will send you an I-797B form indicating that the petition was approved.  Thereafter, you may submit your electronic DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application and schedule an in-person interview at the U.S. Embassy in Lima or submit your documents through the Document Service Center or DHL to request the visa through an interview waiver process.  Please see the section below “Application Instructions for H-2A Applicants” for details on how to apply.

Application Process

Step1.  Complete the online visa application form: DS-160.  The DS-160 is a U.S. Government online form and it can only be completed at: https://ceac.state.gov/CEAC.

Step 2.  Go to the U.S. Visa Appointment Service, and:

  1. Create a user account.
  2. Add information to complete the registration.
  3. Enter the DS-160 confirmation number.
  4. Provide an address or select a location where you want to receive your documents from the Embassy.
  5. Pay the nonimmigrant visa (MRV) application fee: Pay online or in person at Scotiabank.

Step 3.  You will then be directed to either schedule an appointment or send in your documents directly for a visa renewal.

Step 4.  Compile all the necessary documents:

  • Copy of Form I-797B Notice of Action for approved I-129 petition.
  • DS-160 confirmation page with the barcode.
  • Peruvian passport with a minimum of six (6) months validity.  Previously used passports or visas.
  • 2″ x 2″ (5 cm x 5 cm) color photograph on a white background.
  • Signed employer/employee contract: you must submit a written work contract in a language you understand.  The contract must contain detailed information about the wages, work duration, hours, benefits (including transportation, housing and meals or cooking facilities), and any deductions from your paycheck.  A job offer without these kinds of details may be a sign of fraud.  (See section below on fraud prevention).
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) extension of stay if you received an H-2A extension while working in the United States prior to this application.
  • Marriage Certificate, if applicable.

Step 5.  Drop off your documents at the Document Service Center (DSC) or nearest DHL office.

  • DSC address: Av. El Derby 055, Torre 2, Local 2, Edificio Empresarial Cronos, Lima 33.  Drop-off hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 am – 4:00 pm.

Note:

If you are directed to schedule an interview, you will be required to send in your documents via DSC or DHL two weeks prior to your scheduled visa interview appointment.

If you are eligible for visa renewal without an interview, you will be directed to send in your documents directly after completion of your online visa application.

Step 6.  If required by the U.S. Visa Appointment Service, attend the visa interview appointment.

If you are requested to only send in your documents, your application will be processed without an interview.  You will be contacted if further information is needed.

H-2A visas are petition-based visas, meaning that a U.S. employer must obtain a temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor, and receive a Notice of Approval (I-797) of the petition from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before they can schedule a visa appointment for their workers.

Step 1.  Petitioner submits temporary labor certification application to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).  The petitioner must apply for and receive a temporary labor certification for H-2A or H-2B workers from DOL.  For further information regarding the temporary labor certification application process, please refer to the Foreign Labor Certification, Department of Labor Web page.

Step 2.  Petitioner submits Form I-129 to USCIS.  After receiving a temporary labor certification from DOL, the petitioner must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS.  For further information regarding the USCIS petition process, please refer to the USCIS webpage for H-2A workers.

Step 3.  Workers apply for a visa with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.  Once the petitioner has received a Notice of Approval (I-797B) from USCIS indicating that the petition was approved, an appointment for a visa interview may be scheduled for the workers at a U.S. Embassy overseas.  In Peru, all H-2A applications are adjudicated at the U.S. Embassy in Lima.  Applicants will need a completed DS-160 visa application form, payment of $190 USD fee, and a valid passport (see above instructions for H-2 visa applicants).

H-2 visa appointments are made through the U.S. Department of State Visa Appointment Service website.  This website allows applicants and/or petitioners to manage their appointments, add substitutions, and change their appointment dates, if needed.

Step 4.  Workers receive their visas and seek admission to the United States with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port of entry.

Important Note on Exit Requirements: Admit Until Date (AUD)

H-2A visa holders are only permitted to stay in the United States for a period of time determined by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  Upon entering the United States on an H-2A visa, an H-2A worker is issued and electronic I-94 with Admit Until Date (AUD) by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  A worker must exit the United States before the AUD expires.  For more information, please see CBP’s Arrival/Departure Forms: I-94 and I-94W page.

Remember that when workers remain in the United States past their AUD date with no valid extension, they are considered out of status.  For applicants, staying in the United States beyond the authorized time could negatively affect future visa applications.  Employers should ensure that workers comply strictly with the AUD dates assigned.  If you have any questions on when an employee should return to Peru to comply with their AUD date, please contact us at: LimaFPM@state.gov.

Where can I apply for an H-2A visa? H-2A visa applications are only received and processed at the U.S. Embassy in Lima.

What is the processing time for an H-2A worker to obtain a nonimmigrant visa?  Expected H-2A Processing Times (from the creation of the account on the U.S. Visa Appointment Service website to passport delivery with approved visa):  For first-time H-2A applicants to be approximately 28 days.  For renewals (without interview): we aim to complete processing in 21 days.

Is it faster for an H-2A worker to obtain a H-2A visa if s/he has worked in the United States in prior years?  Yes.  Under current processing times, a worker may receive her/his visa sooner if s/he is eligible for a visa renewal (interview waiver).  See processing times above.

As an employer, is there a way for us to know if our worker was granted an H-2A visa?  An employer may receive notice of an H-2A visa issuance by checking the case status on the U.S. Visa Appointment Service webpage.

Are employers allowed to visit the U.S. Embassy in Lima?  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is not possible to visit the U.S. Embassy in Lima.  However, an employer may email us at LimaFPM@state.gov for specific inquiries.

We received the petition for our workers.  How do we help them obtain a visa?  Once the petition has been approved and documents forwarded to the prospective H-2A visa applicant, the employer must confirm the job offer validity by emailing LimaFPM@state.gov.

What does the worker need to prove s/he will depart the United States when their contract is complete?  Consular officers must consider a range of factors to determine if the applicant qualifies for visa issuance under U.S. immigration law.  The applicant must demonstrate to the consular officer that s/he will use the visa for its intended purpose and will return to their country of residence after the conclusion of a temporary visit to the United States.

If a worker is not issued an H-2A visa, is it possible for the employer to find out why s/he was denied?  Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Section 222(f), the records of the U.S. Department of State relating to visa decisions are confidential.  Therefore, information may not be provided to third parties about a particular visa applicant.  Certain information may be provided to people acting on behalf of and with the permission of the applicant.  These people may include petitioners, attorneys, or members of Congress.

What happens if our worker misses his/her interview due to an unforeseeable event, such as a car accident or some other valid reason?  An applicant who misses an appointment will need to reschedule his/her appointment through the U.S. Visa Appointment Service website.  Applicants who anticipate being unable to attend a scheduled appointment are encouraged to log into their account on the U.S. Visa Appointment Services website to reschedule a new appointment at the day and time of their choosing.  Rescheduling multiple times is permissible.

Is it possible to request an emergency expedited appointment?  Yes, it is possible to request an expedited appointment with a reasonable justification.  To request an expedited appointment, you must enter  your account in the  U.S. Visa Appointment Services website and select “request expedite appointment.” Complete all the required information in order to request the expedite appointment.  You will be notified when your request has been approved or denied.  Submission of an expedited appointment request does not guarantee its approval.

Why was I refused under INA 221(g)? What is “administrative processing”?  If an applicant is refused 221(g), this means the consular officer did not have all the information or documents needed in order to process the application to conclusion.  The applicant will receive a letter describing what is outstanding at the conclusion of the interview.  Once the applicant submits the required information in a timely manner, the consular officer will resume the visa’s adjudication.  The applicant does not need to reapply for the visa.

With the H-2A visa program, you have the same rights as every worker in the United States.  You should be paid on time, receive extra pay for overtime work, receive professional and equitable treatment from your employer, and be provided with clean and sanitary housing.  On the day of your visa interview, you will receive a pamphlet with a free number to call in case you feel you are mistreated.  Report mistreatment right away — reporting is 100% confidential and operators speak Spanish.

HOW TO VERIFY THAT YOUR JOB OFFER IS LEGITIMATE

If you have doubts about whether your job offer is legitimate, please contact LimaFPM@state.gov.  Our staff speak Spanish and all calls are confidential.

Signs that your job offer may not be legitimate:

  • The recruiter constantly changes the date of the appointment at the Consulate or date of departure for the United States.
  • The recruiter cannot clearly explain the costs of the application.
  • The recruiter asks for additional fees that “guarantee” the issuance of the visa or an interview with a specific official at the U.S. Embassy.
  • The recruiter does not provide details about the job (name of the company, city and state of the jobsite, list of job responsibilities, salary information, or length of contract).

To maintain a visa process that is fair and equitable to all applicants, please note the following:

  • No fee is paid to anyone who will guarantee the issuance of a visa.
  • No one must charge for a job recommendation; that is illegal in the United States.  If someone tries to charge money for a job recommendation, contact the Fraud Prevention Unit hotline immediately at +51-01-618-2100.
  • Submission of the nonimmigrant visa application (DS-160) is free of charge.
  • No fee will guarantee a specific appointment date, time, or outcome.
  • Be truthful during the interview; do not accept advice to mislead the consular officer.  Misleading or lying could result in a permanent ineligibility for a visa under U.S. immigration law.
  • Only persons applying for visas are allowed into the Embassy.
H2A WORKER ARE PROTECTED BY THE WILBERFORCE ACT

Don’t be afraid to report any fraudulent activity that affects you personally or that you may witness occurring to someone else.  You can help prevent yourself, your family, or your friends from becoming victims of fraud by contacting our Fraud Prevention Unit at +51-01-618-2100 or LimaFPM@state.gov.  Our staff speaks Spanish and all calls are confidential.

For more information on H-2 worker’s rights in the United States, please read the pamphlets on Wilberforce protections linked here:

You may also find this information by visiting: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/temporary-workers.html.

Remember the H-2A worker has the right to:

  • Be paid fairly, even if you are paid at a piece rate.
  • Be free from discrimination.
  • Be free from sexual harassment and sexual exploitation.
  • Have a healthy and safe workplace.
  • Request help from union, immigrant, and labor rights groups.
  • Leave an abusive employment situation.
  • Never have to pay fees to a labor recruiter.
  • Receive a written job offer in a language you understand.  It must contain detailed information about the wages, work duration, hours, benefits (including transportation, housing and meals or cooking facilities), and any deductions from your paycheck.

Additional information for H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers:

  • Your employer must either provide or pay for your daily subsistence and inbound transportation from your home to the place of employment or reimburse you for reasonable costs once you complete half of your work contract.  Once you complete the work contract, your employer must provide or pay for your return transportation and daily subsistence from the place of employment to the place from which you departed to work for the employer.  Your employer may be required to reimburse your inbound travel and visa costs in the first workweek if your wages minus your expenses are less than the U.S. minimum wage.   Your employer must also provide transportation from your employer-provided housing to the worksite at no charge.
  • You are exempt from U.S. Social Security and Medicare taxes on compensation paid for services performed in connection with your H-2A visa.
  • Generally, your employer must offer you employment for a total number of hours equal to at least 3/4 of the workdays in the contract period.
VISIT THESE WEBSITES FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT:
  • Your rights to be paid fairly, including how to file a wage complaint.  Find information on how to file a complaint with the Department of Labor: How to File a Complaint.
  • Your right to join with other workers to improve your pay or working conditions, including how to file a charge: nlrb.gov.
  • Your workplace safety rights, or if you think your job is unsafe and you want to request an inspection: osha.gov.
  • How to get unpaid wages from your employer: dol.gov/wow.
  • Your right not to face discrimination because of your citizenship status and to file a discrimination complaint: justice.gov/crt/filing-charge.
  • Equality, and your rights to be free from discrimination at work because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information, and to file a discrimination charge: eeoc.gov.
  • Prevent Human trafficking: state.gov/j/tip.
  • Your rights, obligations, and exemptions to health insurance:  healthcare.gov (English) and ayudalocal.cuidadodesalud.gov (Spanish).