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The H-2A Visa Application Timeline

Updated: Apr 13

h-2a visa application

Due to the timing and limited availability of visas in the H-2A program, it is essential to assess your labor needs before applying. You will want to consider the timing of your labor needs and plan ahead. First, determine the start and end dates of your labor needs. Once you have a schedule of requirements, you can plan accordingly. The application process can take some time. So, plan to start the application process 120 days before your desired start date. If you have all the necessary documents and information, the process could take an estimated 90-120 days.

The Application Timeline

There are several steps in the process. However, the following is a general breakdown of what to do and when:

  • Approximately 75 days Before Anticipated Labor Need: The first step is to file the Job Order for an H-2A job opportunity. Once accepted, you will initiate the recruiting process and submit your Temporary Labor Certification (TLC) application.

  • Approximately 60 to 75 Days Before Anticipated Labor Need: Submit your TLC application to the DOL. They will review your application and issue the necessary certification. You must have this certification before you can file the I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS.

  • Approximately 45 to 60 Days Before Anticipated Labor Need: Begin recruiting efforts for domestic workers to show you have attempted to recruit from the U.S. first.

  • Approximately 45 days before Anticipated Labor Need: File the I-129 with USCIS: Once you have the certified TLC, file the I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  • Consulate Processing: Upon USCIS approval, H-2A workers will go through the consulate process in their home country to obtain their visas. Afterward, they can enter the United States to begin work on the specified employment start date.

  • Entry to the U.S.: You can arrange transportation to your jobsite if necessary.

By preparing well in advance, gathering the necessary documents, and understanding the timelines involved, navigating the H-2A visa application process becomes a little easier. Remember, patience and attention to detail are essential.

(c) Excerpt from "Chapter 2: The Application Process" in the recent book Navigating The Farm Labor Shortage by Todd Miller. Purchase your copy of the book in eBook or hardcover format here.

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