H-2A Visa Application Process for Workers

September 4, 2021 | By Audrey Holtkamp*


The H-2A temporary agricultural program allows agricultural employers facing a labor shortage to hire workers from foreign countries. Workers under the program are guaranteed the means of travel, food, and housing from their employers. The type of work performed under the program is temporary or seasonal agricultural work such as planting, cultivating, or harvesting:

  • Temporary Work lasts no longer than a year.
  • Seasonal Work occurs during a specific time each year, such as the annual harvesting season.

Note: Workers seeking H-2A jobs should confirm that they live in a country that is eligible to participate in the H-2A program, as determined by the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Secretary of State. The list is posted annually on the Federal Register and can also be accessed on the USCIS website. H-2A visas are temporary and will not put the worker on a path to permanent residency in the United States. H-2A workers are generally 18 years of age or older, but younger workers may be approved depending on the laws of the state they intend to work in. H-2A jobs don’t typically require any specialized skills or schooling. This provides workers facing little to no opportunities in their home country because of a lack of qualifications an avenue of employment.


Before workers can apply for an H-2A visa, they must be hired by an employer with an approved temporary labor certification (granted by the DOL) and approved Form I-129 petitions to host H-2A workers (granted by the USCIS). Workers can find job opportunities offered by these approved employers on the DOL job-finder website. Consular Officers, which are employees of the Department of State that assess visa applications, will use information gathered from an online form and interview to determine the worker’s eligibility for an H-2A visa.

Steps to acquire an H-2A visa from the Department of State:

1. Complete Form DS-160 on the U.S Department of State website[1].

  • It is recommended that workers have their passport, travel itinerary (if they have already made travel arrangements), the dates of their last five trips to the United States, resume (education and work history), and a copy of their I-129 petition with them while completing this form[2].
  • Workers will also be required to upload a photo of them taken within the previous six months[3].
  • It is recommended that workers record their Application ID Number on the top right corner of the page. If the worker’s online session times out, or if they would like to resume completing the form at a later time, they will use the ID Number to log in and continue their application.

2. Print the DS-160 barcode page.

  • After completing the form, the confirmation page will have a barcode that the worker must print and keep.
  • It is recommended that workers also email themselves a backup copy of the confirmation page after printing.

3. Locate the nearest U.S Embassy or Consulate using the U.S Embassy website. Then schedule a visa interview appointment and pay the application fee on the U.S Department of State Visa Appointment Service website.

  • The application fee is non-refundable and currently costs $190 USD[4].
  • Most embassies will allow the worker to schedule the interview when they pay the application fee. Otherwise, the worker will have to contact the embassy directly to schedule the interview.

3. Attend the interview.

  • During this personal interview, workers must demonstrate they are qualified to perform the duties of the job in which they were hired.
    • Workers must also demonstrate that they have significant ties to their home country to assure the consular officer that they will not overstay their visa.
    • The consular officer may ask workers about their family, financial assets and resources, and personal history.
    • Workers must attend this interview alone; lawyers, recruiters, and family are not allowed to attend.

4. If required, schedule and attend a biometrics appointment.

  • On the approval form of the Form I-129 petitions, the USCIS will inform the employer if their workers need to submit biometrics.
  • This appointment will likely take place at the same time as the worker’s personal interview.
  • A digital photo and an electronic fingerprint scan will be collected.


*2021 CALT intern

[1] 22 CFR § 41.103

[3] 22 CFR § 41.105

[4] U.S Department of State- Bureau of Consular Affairs Fees for Visa Services page https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/fees/fees-visa-services.html