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H-2A Visa Program

H-2A and COVID-19

We are committed to delivering USDA services to America’s farmers and ranchers while taking safety measures in response to the COVID-19, or new coronavirus, outbreak. We will share resources related to COVID-19 and the H-2A Visa Program here.


June 2, 2020 – Interim Guidance for Agricultural Workers and Employers from CDC and the U.S. Department of Labor

June 2, 2020 – Potential Resources for Seasonal Farmworker Housing

March 17, 2020 Audio – USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue discusses COVID-19 and its associated impact.

DHS and USDA Move to Protect American Farmers and Ensure Continued Flow of America’s Food Supply

Department to Temporarily Amend Certain H-2A Requirements During COVID-19 National Emergency

April 15, 2020

Under a temporary final rule, an H-2A petitioner with a valid temporary labor certification who is concerned that workers will be unable to enter the country due to travel restrictions can start employing certain foreign workers who are currently in H-2A status in the United States immediately after United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives the H-2A petition, but no earlier than the start date of employment listed on the petition.

Additionally, USCIS is temporarily allowing H-2A workers to stay beyond the three-year maximum allowable period of stay in the United States. Full press release.

Embassy status for a number of affected countries

Effective March 26, the State Department has expanded scope of H-2 Processing | H-2A Q&A (PDF, 97 KB)

Mission Mexico Notice to H Agents and Petitions, March 26, 2020 (PDF, 150KB)


El Salvador: The US Embassy in El Salvador currently has open visa appointments during COVID-19. Contact elsalvadorh@state.govMore information.

Mexico: U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico and Status of U.S. Consular Operations in Mexico in Light of COVID-19

Jamaica: U.S. Embassy in Jamaica and Reports of U.S. Embassy Personnel Testing Positive for COVID-19

South Africa: U.S. Embassy and Consulates in South Africa and Cancellation of Nonimmigrant Visa Appointments from March 16, 2020 until May 31, 2020

Peru: U.S. Embassy in Peru and COVID-19 Information

Guatemala: U.S. Embassy in Guatemala and U.S. Embassy Guatemala City, Guatemala – (March 16, 2020)

Information to Assist H-2A Employers Identify Available Workers

USDA and DOL have identified approximately 53,000 H-2A and H-2B certified positions that have expiring contracts in the coming weeks. There will be workers leaving these positions who could be available to transfer to a different employer’s labor certification. The data, available below, includes the number of certified worker positions, the current employer name and contact, attorney/agent name and contact, and the worksite address. This information will be a resource to H-2A employers whose workforce has been delayed because of travel restrictions or visa processing limitations. Employers should be aware that all statutory and regulatory requirements continue to apply.  Employers are encouraged to monitor for the latest information and should monitor the relevant Embassy/Consular websites for specific operational information. 

Download an Excel file of this information. (Previous version available in this Excel file.)

Guidance on US Mexico Border Closures and Critical Workforce

Temporary Travel Restrictions Applicable to Land Ports of Entry and Ferries Service Between the United States and Mexico

Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce

Department of Labor Updates

COVID-19 and the American Workplace: Guidance related to Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Annual Update to Allowable Charges for Agricultural Workers' Meals and for Travel Subsistence Reimbursement for H-2A and H-2B Workers, Including Lodging

OFLC Releases Frequently Asked Questions Regarding COVID-19

H2A 2nd FAQ

H2A 3rd FAQ

USCIS Updates

USCIS Announces Flexibility in Submitting Required Signatures During COVID-19 National Emergency

For more information on USDA and the Coronavirus, visit USDA's main Coronavirus page

H-2A Visa Program

Are you a farmer who needs seasonal or temporary workers for planting, cultivating, and harvesting crops but domestic workers are in short supply?

The H-2A temporary agricultural workers program – often called the H-2A visa program - helps American farmers fill employment gaps by hiring workers from other countries.

Get started here by:  

  • Learning the H-2A visa application basics
  • Creating a personalized H-2A visa application checklist built around your hiring needs
  • Estimating the costs of hiring workers through the H-2A visa program

About the H-2A Visa Program

The H-2A temporary agricultural program helps employers who anticipate a lack of available domestic workers to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work including, but not limited to, planting, cultivating, or harvesting labor.

Depending on the type of work you need, temporary or seasonal agricultural work can happen on farms, plantations, ranches, nurseries, ranges, greenhouses, orchards, or other similar locations.

  • Seasonal work is when you need more help than usual because the work is tied to a certain time of year by an event or pattern, like a short annual growing cycle.
  • Temporary work lasts no longer than 1 year.

If you have been affected by a strike, work stoppage, or layoff within 60 days of when work will start, you may not qualify for the program.

To participate in the program, you’ll work with your State Workforce Agency to earnestly recruit U.S. workers. The State Workforce Agency will publicly post your job order to recruit U.S. workers. You must accept eligible referrals of U.S. workers who apply for the job, and also contact any former U.S. employees at their last known contact address. When a qualified U.S. worker applies, you must employ them until 50 percent of the work period specified in the work contract has passed.  After 50 percent, there is no continued affirmative obligation to hire.


Steps for Participating in the H-2A Visa Program

Learn about the basic steps for hiring new workers through the H-2A visa program and for extending the employment contract for current H-2A workers.  Then create your personalized H-2A visa checklist through our interactive tool.

H-2A Visa Application Paths

The H-2A visa application and extension processes generally involve these steps and federal agencies.


The standard filing process for hiring H-2A workers should take around 75 days and will include the following steps.

  1. The farmer applies for a domestic job order with the local State Workforce Agency.
  2. The farmer applies for a temporary labor certification with the Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center.
  3. Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center provides the farmer with its final determination.
  4. The farmer completes an H-2A visa petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  5. Workers apply for the H-2A visa with the Department of State and complete consulate interviews.
  6. Approved workers travel to the worksite and arrive on the start date with an arrival/departure record.


The farmer should consider the emergency filing process if H-2A workers are needed in less than 75 days.

During emergency filing, the farmer should submit a job order with the State Workforce Agency and apply for a temporary labor certification with the Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center at the same time. Then the farmer should follow the same steps as a standard filing.

  1. Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center provides the farmer with its final determination.
  2. The farmer completes an H-2A visa petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  3. Workers apply for the H-2A visa with the Department of State’s National Processing Center and complete consulate interviews.
  4. Approved workers travel to the worksite and arrive on the start date with an arrival/departure record.

Immediate Need

Farmers who need workers in 44 days or less should email the Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center at to ensure there’s enough time to complete all H-2A visa program steps before the start date.  The email subject line should say “H-2A Program Question: Immediate Need for H-2A Workers.  Farmers will need to provide justification for using the emergency filing process.

Extending Workers

Farmers have two options for extending workers on a current H-2A visa contract.

A short-term extension of less than two weeks

  • The farmer submits a Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

A long-term extension of more than two weeks

  • The farmer submits a Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • The farmer sends a notice to the US Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center that explains the request for an extension. 

Create Your H-2A Visa Checklist

Callout Icon

Answer a few short questions to create your personalized H-2A visa checklist for hiring temporary agricultural workers from other countries.

Costs of the H-2A Visa Program

Use this table to understand and estimate the costs you'll be responsible for when hiring and employing foreign workers under the H-2A Visa Program.

IMPORTANT: You must report to the Department of Labor if you're made aware that workers were charged a fee for employment by recruiters or any other representatives.

Column one contains the expense category and the specific type of expense, and column two contains the dollar amount and relevant details for each expense.
Labor Certification
Processing sole employers $100 application fee, plus $10 per certified worker (not to exceed $1000)
Non-Immigrant Worker Petition
Filing fee $460
H-2A Visa Application
Consulate fee $190 per worker (worker must be reimbursed in first paycheck)
Border stamp fee $6 per worker
Agent fees Approximately $100 per worker
Transport from home country to work site $400 to $650 per worker (cost varies depending on the country of origin)
Weekly travel to and from a grocery store and other incidentals Cost varies
Miscellaneous costs
Association fees if applicable $200
Housing and livable fittings Approximately $9,000 to $13,000 per worker

Expenses You May Be Able to Collect


As the employer, you can seek or receive payment from workers for anything related to:

  • Transport expenses and daily subsistence from wages, but you must reimburse these costs once 50% of the contract is completed.
  • Up to $12.26 per day (for providing 3 meals per day) if cooking facilities aren't available.

Deductions are subject to Fair Labor Standards Act requirements.

Expenses You Can't Deduct


As the employer, you can’t seek or receive payment from workers for anything related to obtaining the H-2A labor certification, including:

  • Your attorney or agent fees
  • Application fees
  • Recruitment costs



Guaranteed Payment (3/4 Guarantee)

Under the H-2A Visa Program, employers must guarantee workers employment hours equal to at least 75% of the workdays in the contract period. The employer will pay workers who weren’t offered sufficient hours.

For example, if a contract is for a 10-week period, where a normal workweek is 6 days a week, 8 hours per day, the worker would need to be guaranteed employment for at least 360 hours (10 weeks x 48 hours per week = 480 hours x 75% = 360 hours)

For more information, see the U.S. Department of Labor's 3/4 Guarantee Fact Sheet.

Taxing Workers

H-2A workers aren't required to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on their wages. In addition, the employer is not required to pay these taxes on the worker either.

Workers may owe U.S. federal income tax when they file income tax returns for the year. If both the worker and the employer agree to withhold federal income tax, employers can withhold. In order for the employer to withhold taxes from the worker's compensation, the worker must complete and return Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate, to the employer. Note that some states allow employers to withhold the employee’s portion of workers compensation. Review the workers compensation laws for your state.

For more information, see these resources:

Laws and Obligations

Keep these laws and obligations in mind throughout the H-2A application and work contract period.

  • Employers can’t hold or confiscate workers’ passports or other immigration documents.

  • There can be no strike or lockout during a labor dispute at the worksite.

  • Employers can’t discriminate against, or discharge without just cause, any person who:

    • Has filed a complaint

    • Consulted with an attorney or an employee of a legal assistance program

    • Testified, or in any manner, exercised or asserted on behalf of himself/herself or others any right or protection afforded by sec. 218 of the INA or the H-2A regulations

For more information, see the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Law Guide for Temporary Agricultural Workers.


E-Verify is a federal program that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.

E-Verify is a voluntary program. However, these types of employers may be required to use the program:

  • Those with federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation E-Verify clause

  • Those in states or locales that have legislation mandating the use of E-Verify

  • Those required to use E-Verify by a federal ruling

For more information, see

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