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Create Your H-2A Visa Checklist

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.

Answer a few short questions to receive a checklist of requirements, fees, forms, and a timeline built around your H-2A hiring needs.

  • Is this your first time hiring workers using the H-2A Visa Program?

No earlier than 75 days before, submit a job order to your State Workforce Agency

Begin your H-2A visa application by submitting the Employment and Training Administration Form 790 (ETA Form 790) and cover letter to your State Workforce Agency.

Required Documentation Icon.svg REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

Tips Icon.svg APPLICATION TIPS:

  • For quick communication, include your email address in the application.

Ways to Submit Icon.svg WAYS TO SUBMIT:

  • File online  through the Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) System.

  • Mail or email your application to your state’s processing center.

Once you submit the form and cover letter, the Chicago National Processing Center will contact you within 7 days if they accept the application or if they need further information. You will have 5 days to provide missing information and correct errors.

Check the approval status of your Department of Labor or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services cases through the Farmers.gov H-2A Case Tracker. To track the status of your cases over time, sign in or sign up for an H-2A Case Tracker account through login.gov. 

Submit a job order to your State Workforce Agency AND apply for a labor certification with the Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center

During the standard filing process, applicants submit a job order to the State Workforce Agency first and then apply for a labor certification with the Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center at a later date. For emergency filing, you will complete both of these steps at the same time.

Submit a job order to your State Workforce Agency

Begin your H-2A visa application by submitting the Employment and Training Administration Form 790 (ETA Form 790) and cover letter to your State Workforce Agency.

Required Documentation Icon.svg REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

Tips Icon.svg APPLICATION TIPS:

  • For quick communication, include your email address in the application.

Ways to Submit Icon.svg WAYS TO SUBMIT:

  • File online  through the Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) System.

  • Mail or email your application to your state’s processing center.

Once you submit the form and cover letter, the Chicago National Processing Center will contact you within 7 days if they accept the application or if they need further information. You will have 5 days to provide missing information and correct errors.

Apply for a labor certification with the Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center

Once the State Workforce Agency approves your job order, you should submit your completed H-2A application to the Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center (servicing the entire country). If the State Workforce Agency doesn’t accept your job order or respond in a timely manner, submit an emergency H‐2A visa application to the Chicago National Processing Center only.

Required Documentation Icon.svg REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

Tips Icon.svg APPLICATION TIPS:

  • Include your email address in the application. (The Department of Labor will communicate with you using next-day delivery if you don’t provide an email address.)

  • Disclose important wage, benefit, or other working conditions required by regulation.

  • Read through the Department of Labor’s Employer Guide to Participation in the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program for additional information.

Ways to Submit Icon.svg WAYS TO SUBMIT:

Once you submit the form and cover letter, the Chicago National Processing Center will contact you within 7 days or else issue a notice of deficiency requesting additional information. You’ll have 5 days to provide missing information and correct errors.

You can submit an appeal to the Department of Labor’s Administrative Law Judge rather than respond to each correction or deficiency. You must request a review or hearing before the judge within 5 days, or the Department of Labor will consider your application abandoned and denied.

Check the approval status of your Department of Labor or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services cases through the Farmers.gov H-2A Case Tracker. To track the status of your cases over time, sign in or sign up for an H-2A Case Tracker account through login.gov. 

Apply for a labor certification with the Department of Labor's Chicago National Processing Center

Once the State Workforce Agency approves your job order, you should submit your completed H-2A application to the Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center (servicing the entire country). If the State Workforce Agency doesn’t accept your job order or respond in a timely manner, submit an emergency H‐2A visa application to the Chicago National Processing Center only.

Required Documentation Icon.svg REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

Tips Icon.svg APPLICATION TIPS:

  • Include your email address in the application. (The Department of Labor will communicate with you using next-day delivery if you don’t provide an email address.)

  • Disclose important wage, benefit, or other working conditions required by regulation.

  • Read through the Department of Labor’s Employer Guide to Participation in the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program for additional information.

Ways to Submit Icon.svg WAYS TO SUBMIT:

Once you submit the form and cover letter, the Chicago National Processing Center will contact you within 7 days or else issue a notice of deficiency requesting additional information. You’ll have 5 days to provide missing information and correct errors.

If you believe there is no basis for the notice of deficiency, you can file an appeal.

Begin domestic recruitment

You must first recruit domestic workers and document all recruitment activities before you hire foreign workers using the H-2A visa program.

Begin recruiting domestic workers immediately after you file with the State Workforce Agency. You'll need to continue recruiting domestic workers until your H-2A workers begin traveling to the worksite, or 3 days before the work is scheduled to start, whichever is earlier. You must accept domestic referrals through 50 percent of the contract period.

The Chicago National Processing Center will provide you with specific instructions about the recruiting activities you are required to complete. These activities could include:

  • Posting newspaper ads, on a Sunday and another day, in a newspaper that serves the local area around the workplace. If there’s no Sunday edition, advertise in the daily edition with the widest circulation serving your local area

  • Contacting domestic workers you’ve employed during the previous year and offer them a job if they were not terminated for cause or did not abandon the worksite

  • Advertising in a maximum of three other states in the region or in expected labor supply states

Post Advertisements

As a part of the domestic recruitment process, you will need to post job advertisements in local areas near the workplace. There are some specific pieces of information you’ll need to include in the ad, including, but not limited to:

  • The name of your business and the work location

  • A description of the job duties

  • The work period

  • The wage offer (hourly and/or piece rate pay)

  • The number of job open positions

  • A description of the 3/4th Guarantee

  • That you will provide tools, supplies, and equipment at no cost, if applicable

  • That you will reimburse workers for transportation and subsistence to the worksite once 50 percent of the work contract is completed (Note: The Fair Labor Standards Act applies independently of the H-2A Program and contains different reimbursement obligations.)

  • That you will provide housing at no cost if workers can’t reasonably return home at the end of the work day

  • Contact information for your State Workforce Agency

  • The job order number and instructions to apply for the job by contacting the State Workforce Agency, if available

Interview domestic workers

You will need to interview domestic workers by phone or in person at little or no cost. The Chicago National Processing Center will also publish a copy of your job order on the National Public Job Registry. This job posting will be active until 50 percent of the work contract has passed.

Document recruiting activities

You are required to accept all eligible domestic workers through 50 percent of the contract period and fully consider them for a job.

You’ll also need to maintain a recruitment report that contains:

  • The name of each recruitment source

  • The name and contact information for each referral or applicant, including former workers

  • An explanation for each domestic worker who applied for a position but wasn't hired

  • A statement describing how and when domestic workers were contacted

Receive a final determination from Department of Labor's Chicago National Processing Center

Once you complete the recruitment activities, you should submit additional documentation to the Department of Labor's Chicago National Processing Center to receive your final determination.

Required Documentation Icon.svg REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

  • Your signed and dated recruitment report

  • The State Workforce Agency housing certificate that shows your housing meets all standards and can house the number or workers requested.  (If you're providing rental or other public housing, you must present documentation that the housing complies with the local, state, or federal regulations.)

  • A copy of your state workers’ compensation insurance policy

Note: If you're exempt from state law, you must outline coverage benefits that are equal to those provided under the state workers’ compensation law for comparable employment. You also will need to provide documentation showing:

  • The name of the insurance carrier

  • Your policy number

  • Dates covered by the policy

  • A statement that you will renew and maintain coverage for the duration of the work period.

Ways to Submit Icon.svg WAYS TO SUBMIT:

  • File online  through the Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) System.

  • Mail or email your application to your state’s processing center.

The Chicago National Processing Center will send you a final determination letter which provides you either full or partial certification.

  • Full Certification: Your labor certification is granted for the entire number of workers requested for the employment period.

  • Partial Certification: Your labor certification is granted, but for a reduced number of workers or employment period. You can appeal this decision to the Department of Labor’s Administrative Law Judge within 7 days.

Your final determination letter will include a certified H-2A Application (ETA Form 9142) and Appendix A.2. Keep this and all related documentation for at least 3 years.

Within 30 days of receiving the letter, you’ll pay your fees with either a check or money order. The cost for individual employers is $100 + $10 per worker, up to $1000.  The Chicago National Processing Center will include instructions for payment with your determination letter.

Submit your petition for a non-immigrant worker to US Citizenship and Immigration Services

With full or partial certification, you will complete and submit a Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker application (Form I-129) to US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Required Documentation Icon.svg REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

  • Two copies of your Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) with all supporting documentation

  • A signed Appendix A.2 and your certified original of the H-2A Application for Temporary Employment Certification (Form ETA 9142A) (Be sure to make copies before mailing)

  • A schedule with the dates and locations where services or training, if applicable, will happen

  • Your $460 filing fee

Tips Icon.svg NAMING WORKERS:

In general, you do not need to specifically name the women on the petition, unless you are seeking to transfer specific women to your employment who already have an H-2A visa.

For information about the types of I-129 petitioners, see "H-2A Petitioners: Questions and Answers" on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Ways to Submit Icon.svg WAYS TO SUBMIT:

By Mail: US Postal Service
USCIS California Service Center
Attn: I-129 H-2A
P.O. Box 10140
Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1040

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
USCIS California Service Center
Attn: I-129 H-2A
24000 Avila Road
2nd Floor, Room 2312
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Requests for Evidence from US Citizenship and Immigration Services

US Citizenship and Immigration Services may require additional information from you in order to approve your I-129 petition. The agency checks applications against several databases, including:

  • Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE)

A web-based tool for verifying commercially available business information about employers (For more information, see "VIBE Questions and Answers" from US Citizenship and Immigration Services.)

  • Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS)

Business numbering system maintained by Dun & Bradstreet that provides some of the information in VIBE

US Citizenship and Immigration Services will send you a WAC number, also referred to as a receipt or case number, when they approve your application. The WAC number starts with 3 letters and is followed by a series of numbers, for example WAC-15-123-45678.

Find workers

The foreign workers hired using the H-2A visa program must come from one or more countries on this list.

When offering the job, you must provide a written work contract in the applicant's native language. This contract should contain:

  • The beginning and ending dates of the contract period

  • Work location(s)

  • Hours per day and days per week each worker will work

  • Specific days workers are not required to work, such as the Sabbath or United States federal holidays

  • The crop(s) to be worked and each job to be performed, plus rate for each crop (determine whether workers will be paid by hourly rate or by piece and then estimate the cost)

  • A statement that you will provide workers with the following at no charge:

    • Tools, supplies, and equipment

    • Workers’ compensation insurance

    • Housing that meets state safety standards

    • Either three meals a day or facilities to prepare a meal (view more information)

  • A list of applicable charges or deductions including:

    • Transportation costs (until 50% of the contract is fulfilled)

    • Deductions not otherwise required by law that are reasonable and specified

 

Workers apply for the H-2A Visa

Next, the foreign workers you intend to hire will submit a visa application with the Department of State and complete a consulate interview.

Visa application

The foreign workers you intend to hire must have a valid passport and must apply for their H-2A visa with the Department of State by completing the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160). Employers or workers will need to pay a non-refundable $190 application fee during this process, which can be reimbursed by the employer at a later date.

Consulate Interview

Next, the workers will need to complete their consulate interview. Generally, the employer or their agent will make an appointment for a visa interview at the United States consulate or embassy, but the worker is also able to make this appointment. View the worker’s consular website for more information.

Workers should bring these items to their interview:

  • A valid WAC petition number from US Citizenship and Immigration Services

  • Their printed copy of the completed DS-160

  • A passport valid for the duration of their stay in the United States

  • The $190 filing fee receipt

Workers travel to worksite

Before the scheduled start date, workers can begin traveling from their home country to the work site. Workers should arrive at the work site on the scheduled start date. You are responsible for the cost of transportation.

Workers should complete a I-94 Arrival/Departure Record before traveling to the work site and carry it to and from the work site. When the worker arrives at the United States port of entry, an officer will stamp the I-94 with the approved entry and exit dates as well as the class of admission.

Short-Term Extension

You can extend a work contract for two weeks or less using a short-term extension with US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Note: You do not need to file a new or amended labor certification with the Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center.

Required Documentation Icon.svg REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

Tips Icon.svg TIPS:

  • Submit a new petition before the existing contract expires.

  • Write “Two-week extension” and enter the date you included in Form I-129 to USCIS in the Additional Information box in Section 2.

  • You must name workers who are already in the United States.

  • US Citizenship and Immigration Services will approve all applications for extensions on a case-by-case basis.

Ways to Submit Icon.svg WAYS TO SUBMIT:

  • Mail:
    USPS
    USCIS California Service Center 
    Attn: I-129 H-2A
    P.O. Box 10140
    Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1040

    FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
    USCIS California Service Center
    Attn: I-129 H-2A
    24000 Avila Road
    2nd Floor, Room 2312
    Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Learn more about types of I-129 through the H-2A Petitioners: Questions and Answers on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Long-Term Extension

To extend your contract more than two weeks, you must submit a new Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker application with US Citizenship and Immigration Services -AND- send the Department of Labor’s Chicago National Processing Center a notification. Note: The Department of Labor does not usually grant extensions when the new certified period of employment will be 12 months or more, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Submit a petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services

Required Documentation Icon.svg REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

Tips Icon.svg TIPS:

  • Submit a new petition before the existing contract expires.

  • Write “Two-week extension” and enter the date you included in Form I-129 to USCIS in the Additional Information box in Section 2.

  • You must name workers who are already in the United States.

  • USCIS will approve all applications for extensions on a case-by-case basis.

Ways to Submit Icon.svg WAYS TO SUBMIT:

  • Mail:
    USPS
    USCIS California Service Center 
    Attn: I-129 H-2A
    P.O. Box 10140
    Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1040

    FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
    USCIS California Service Center
    Attn: I-129 H-2A
    24000 Avila Road
    2nd Floor, Room 2312
    Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Learn more about types of I-129 through the H-2A Petitioners: Questions and Answers on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Contact US Department of Labor

Next, send a notice to the Department of Labor’s National Processing Center that explains your request for an extension. 

Required Documentation Icon.svg REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

  • A notification detailing why you need a long-term extension your contract

  • Supporting documentation for your extension, such as weather reports, crop yield data, or changes in market conditions

Ways to Submit Icon.svg WAYS TO SUBMIT:

  • Email: Send your request to TLC.Chicago@dol.gov and include “H-2A Start Date Amendment Request” in the email subject line.

  • Fax: Send your request by fax to (312) 886-1688 with a cover sheet that specifies "ATTN: H-2A Extension Request".

  • Mail: Send your requested by mail to:

                     U.S. Department of Labor

                     Employment and Training Administration

                     Office of Foreign Labor Certification,

                     Chicago National Processing Center

                     11 West Quincy Court

                     Chicago, IL 60604-2105

                     ATTN: H-2A Extension Request

You will receive a courtesy notification from the Chicago National Processing Center within 48 hours.  The notification will provide information about when a decision will be made or whether additional information is needed.

Once you receive written approval, you will should provide workers with a copy immediately.

Add Calendar Reminders to Your Phone, Tablet, or Personal Computer

Click Add to Calendar to add calendar reminders for key H-2A visa application dates to your personal calendar.