What You Should Know About Immigrant Visa Categories

What You Should Know About US Immigrant Visa Categories

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There are several visa categories that can be extremely helpful for seasonal and temporary employers. This article discusses three categories crucial for US businesses with foreign labor operations: H-2A, H-2B, and permanent residency (commonly referred to as green card).


Finding, hiring, and retaining a sufficient workforce is one of the most challenging tasks for agricultural and other seasonal employers. Sometimes, domestic workers are not available in adequate numbers to meet the needs of temporary employers. Other times, workers are not interested in the kinds of jobs that are available.

However, the H-2A visa attorneys at Farmer Law will assist small business owners and other clients on various issues related to illegal and legal immigration.

H-2A Visa – Temporary Agricultural Program

The H-2A visa program is for seasonal or temporary agricultural workers. The program helps about 14,000 agricultural growers around the country to recruit more than 270,000 positions. The primary benefit of an H-2A visa is that it has no annual cap or limit. In other words, unlike the H-2B visa, there is no limit on the total number of foreign workers who may receive an H-2A visa during a fiscal year.

In this program, employers must pay the prevailing minimum wage in the market, known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR). It is also important to note that this wage rate varies by state. For California, the rate is $16.77/hour as of 2022. Moreover, the work must be temporary (up to ten months) and full time.

Business owners must preferentially recruit and hire United States workers over foreign workers. Therefore, employers have to contact any local worker they laid off from the previous year to ask if they are willing to return to their job. If you want expert advice on this program, consider calling the H-2A visa attorneys at Farmer Law for reliable information.   

H-2B Visa – Temporary Non-Agricultural Program

The H-2B visa program has generally been the preferred visa option for business owners looking to hire foreign workers coming to the US to fill unskilled or non-professional occupations.

You need significant investment for the application procedure to acquire these visas. This is because the process may involve as many as four different federal and state government organizations. In addition, these nonimmigrant work visas require the employer to have a temporary foreign labor certification. Interestingly, this is the only visa category with that requirement.

Generally, H-2B visas are for unskilled seasonal or temporary workers. It is crucial for the workers to fill a full-time seasonal job. Moreover, the job cannot last longer than 10 months. The process of acquiring H-2B laborers is complex, requiring multiple steps and many government agencies.

Therefore, employers should begin the process six months in advance. The main feature of the H-2B visa is that it has an annual cap or limit. Unlike the H-2A visa, there is an upper limit on the total number of foreign workers who may receive an H-2B visa during a fiscal year.


EB-3 Visa – Permanent Foreign Labor Options

Seasonal businesses usually need additional workers during particular times of the year, and these businesses may also have a year-long requirement for permanent workers. One long-term option for employers in the US to keep foreign laborers is financing them for a “green card,” or a permanent residency.

This also works well with an H-2B or H-2A visa, often allowing the foreigners to carry on with their work while the green card process is in progress. They can live and work without any restrictions in the United States after receiving their green card. However, this procedure can take up to two or three years.

Another essential thing to note is that there is a limit on the number of green cards granted annually. Only about 225,000 family-based and 146,000 employment-based cards are issued yearly.