Utilizing the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program to Help Your Local Farm
Running a farm is no small task, especially when it comes to harvest season or periods in which the amount of work you have exceeds the capabilities of your normal workforce. Finding enough workers has become incredibly challenging, and many local farms rely on temporary workers from abroad to help them get through the season. With this in mind, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has developed the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program to enable agricultural employers to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the country.
To qualify for the H-2A program, the employment must be temporary and generally last no longer than one year.
Keep reading for more information on this program and how you can apply.
First Steps in Applying to the H-2A Program
According to the DOL, before filing a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you must go through the H-2A Temporary Labor Certification process. This process is done through an online filing system called FLAG. However, if an employer does not have access to electronic filing, they may also submit an application via regular mail.
The first five steps of the certification process are:
- Obtain a Migrant Camp Permit
- Filing a Job Order with the State Workforce Agency
- Filing an H-2A Application with the Chicago National Processing Center
- Recruitment for U.S. workers
- Finish the certification process no less than 30 calendar days before the work state date
You may be wondering why there is a condition for recruiting U.S. workers as part of the H-2A process. To be successfully certified, the DOL must determine that there are not enough qualified U.S. workers available and willing to perform the work. As part of this certification process, the DOL will direct the applicant employer on where, when, and how to advertise. They will also provide guidance on preparing your recruitment report.
Typically, recruitment will begin on the date you receive your Notice of Acceptance from the Chicago National Processing Center (NPC).
How Long Is the H-2A Certification Process?
Once an application is submitted, it will be reviewed by the Chicago NPC. This is done quickly, and the applicant will receive notice of whether the Chicago NPC accepts their application within seven calendar days. This notification will include the employer’s next steps. If applicable, this notification will also be sent to the employer’s attorney.
Final determination will be made by the Chicago NPC 30 calendar days before the employer’s date of need. Total processing time for the hiring of H-2A workers is around 75 days. It is extremely important to note that it may take several weeks or more to prepare to make the initial filings. It is recommended to begin preparing for the H-2A process five months before the workers are needed.
Do I Need an Attorney to Apply for the H-2A Visa Program?
The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program is vital to helping American farmers keep their farms running and fill gaps in employment during key seasons. However, the application process can be complicated and time-consuming. Failure to meet all the certification requirements can result in your application being rejected and you not being able to hire the workers you desperately need. This is where a seasoned immigration attorney, like ours at The Gaston Law Firm, P.A, can help.
An experienced immigration attorney can help you with the following:
- Determine if you meet the eligibility requirements for the program
- Prepare and submit all forms and other documentation to the appropriate departments and agencies
- Track the progress of your application
- Submit your H-2A visa pet1ition to US Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Ensure that you are not in violation of any immigration or related labor laws
- Confirm the eligibility of the workers you plan to hire
If you are a farmer in South Florida looking to take advantage of the H-2A visa program, it is crucial that all steps of the process be managed correctly. The legal team at The Gaston Law Firm, P.A. can assist agricultural employers, big and small, through this process, and we are prepared to use our experience to guide you. We know how important the H-2A program is to you and the successful running of your farm. Our team is standing by to answer your questions and help you get started with the H-2A visa process today.
To learn more about the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program and how we can help you, send us a message online.