Do you want to work legally in the United States and earn money for you and your family? The H-2 visa program makes it possible. Applicants can work temporary jobs in agriculture, construction, forestry, and many other kinds of industries. The H-2A visa is for temporary agricultural jobs, while the H-2B visa is for temporary non-agricultural jobs.
Information for H-2 Visa Applicants
Here are the basic steps of the process:
Step 1. Find a company in the U.S. in need of temporary workers. Word of mouth, a local or U.S.-based visa agent online, or a job fair can get you started. The U.S. Consulates General do not have a “job bank” or offer a list of available jobs.
Step 2. Review your job contract and confirm that the petition is valid. Review the details of your job offer to see what kind of work you have been offered and how much you will be paid. You must receive a written work contract in a language you understand. The contract must contain detailed information about the wages, work duration, hours, benefits (including transportation, housing and meals or cooking facilities), and any deductions from your paycheck. You have the right to be paid fairly, even if you are paid at a piece rate. A job offer without these kinds of details may be a sign of fraud.
H-2 visas are petition-based visas, meaning that the U.S. employer must first apply for a petition from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and provide a copy of the approved petition to the worker before scheduling them for visa appointments. You can verify the legitimacy of the petition by contacting U.S. Mission to South Africa’s Fraud Prevention Unit by email at JHNFPU@state.gov.
Step 3. Complete a DS-160 visa application form and pay the $190 USD visa application fee. The Form DS-160 must be completed and submitted online prior to your visa interview at a U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban. It is important to tell the truth on your application. You must list any previous arrests and prior time spent in the United States. These activities do not necessarily disqualify you from the H-2 visa program. Your agent may assist you in completing the form, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all the information contained in the application is complete and correct.
The $190 USD visa application fee must be paid prior to the interview. Everyone who applies for a U.S. visa anywhere in the world must pay this fee, which covers the cost of processing the application. As the application form states, this fee is non-refundable regardless of whether the visa is issued or not, since the application was processed to conclusion.
NOTE: If you are asked to pay any additional illegal fees, please contact our Fraud Prevention Unit by email at JHNFPU@state.gov.
Step 4. Ensure that you meet the requirements to make a visa appointment. Before making an appointment for a visa interview, make sure you have the following:
- A valid, undamaged passport – please confirm that your passport is valid (not expired) and the data is correct, including your date of birth, gender, and spelling of your name.
- Valid petition number – see Step 2 above.
- Proof of payment of the $190 USD visa application fee – see step 3 above.
While individuals are able to make appointments, in general, petitioners and/or their agents make appointments for their workers. If you intend to schedule your own appointment, you may do so by following the instructions on our visa appointment website: https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-za/niv
Step 5. Attend your appointment at the U.S. Consulate General in Cape Town, Durban, or Johannesburg, if requested. It is important to tell the truth during your interview. You must disclose any previous arrests and prior time spent in the United States . These activities do not necessarily disqualify you from the H-2 visa program. However, concealing prior unlawful presence or arrests will result in the denial of the visa and may lead to a permanent visa ineligibility.
Step 6. If approved, receive your visa and travel to a U.S. port of entry and apply for admission as an H-2 worker.
Information for Petitioners (U.S. employers)
H-2 visas are petition-based visas, meaning that a U.S. employer must obtain a temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor, and receive a Notice of Approval (I-797) of the petition from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before scheduling a visa appointment for their workers with the Department of State.
Step 1. Petitioner submits temporary labor certification application to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The petitioner must apply for and receive a temporary labor certification for H-2A or H-2B workers from DOL. For further information regarding the temporary labor certification application process, please refer to the Foreign Labor Certification, Department of Labor Web page.
Step 2. Petitioner submits Form I-129 and supporting documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After receiving a temporary labor certification from DOL, the petitioner must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with USCIS. For further information regarding the USCIS petition process, please refer to the USCIS webpages for H-2A workers and H-2B workers.
Step 3. Workers apply for a visa with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate General abroad. Once the petitioner has received a Notice of Approval (I-797B) from USCIS indicating that the petition was approved, an appointment for a visa interview may be scheduled for the H-2 workers at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate General overseas. In Mission South Africa, H-2 visa applications are processed in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town. Applicants will need a completed DS-160 visa application form, payment of $190 USD fee, and a valid passport (see above instructions for H-2 visa applicants).
H-2 visa appointments are made through the Official U.S. Department of State Visa Appointment Service website. This website allows applicants and/or petitioners manage their appointments, add substitutions, and change their appointment dates, if needed.
Step 4. Workers receive their visas and seek admission to the United States with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port of entry.
Know Your Rights / Report Fraudulent Activity
With the H-2 visa program, you have the same rights as every worker in the United States. You should be paid on time, receive extra pay for overtime work, and receive good treatment and clean housing. When you get your H-2 visa, you will receive a pamphlet with a free number to call in case you feel mistreated. Report mistreatment right away—reporting is 100% confidential.
HOW TO VERIFY THAT YOUR JOB OFFER IS LEGITIMATE:
If you have doubts about whether your job offer is legitimate, please contact our Fraud Prevention Unit at JHNFPU@state.gov.
Signs that your job offer may not be legitimate:
- The recruiter constantly changes the date of the appointment at the Consulate General or date of departure for the United States.
- The recruiter cannot clearly explain the costs of the application.
- The recruiter does not provide details about the job (name of the company, city and state of the jobsite, list of job responsibilities, salary information, length of contract).
In order to maintain a visa process that is fair and equitable to all applicants, please note the following:
- No fee paid to anyone will guarantee the issuance of a visa.
- The application form is free of charge.
- No fee will guarantee a specific appointment date or time.
- Be truthful during the interview; don’t accept advice to mislead the consular officer. Misleading or lying could result in a permanent visa denial.
- Only persons applying for visas are allowed into the Consulate General.
Don’t be afraid to report any fraudulent activity that affects you personally or that you may witness occurring to someone else. You can help prevent yourself or your friends from becoming victims of fraud, by contacting our Fraud Prevention Unit at JHNFPU@state.gov.
For more information on H-2 worker’s rights in the United States, please read the pamphlets (English – PDF – 4.6 MB).
You have the right to:
- Be paid fairly, even if you are paid at a piece rate.
- Be free from discrimination.
- Be free from sexual harassment and sexual exploitation.
- Have a healthy and safe workplace.
- Request help from union, immigrant, and labor rights groups.
- Leave an abusive employment situation.
- Never have to pay fees to a labor recruiter.
- Receive a written job order in a language you understand. It must contain detailed information about the wages, work duration, hours, benefits (including transportation, housing and meals or cooking facilities), and any deductions from your paycheck.
Additional information for H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers:
- Your employer must either provide or pay for your daily subsistence and inbound transportation from your home to the place of employment or reimburse you for reasonable costs once you complete half of your work contract. Once you complete the work contract, your employer must provide or pay for your return transportation and daily subsistence from the place of employment to the place from which you departed to work for the employer. Your employer may be required to reimburse your inbound travel and visa costs in the first workweek if your wages minus your expenses are less than the U.S. minimum wage. Your employer must also provide transportation from your employer-provided housing to the worksite at no charge.
- You are exempt from U.S. Social Security and Medicare taxes on compensation paid for services performed in connection with your H-2A visa.
- Generally, your employer must offer you employment for a total number of hours equal to at least 3/4 of the workdays in the contract period.
Additional information for H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers:
- Generally, your employer must offer you employment for a total number of hours equal to at least three-quarters of the workdays in each 12-week period.
- You have the right to be paid fairly, even if you are paid at a piece rate.
- Your employer must either provide or reimburse you for inbound transportation and subsistence from overseas by the time you complete half of the contract period. Additionally, your employer must pay costs for your transportation home, including subsistence, if you complete the period of employment or are dismissed by your employer for any reason before the end of your authorized period of employment. Your employer may also be required to reimburse your inbound travel and visa costs in the first workweek if your wages minus your expenses are less than the U.S. minimum wage.
Visit These Websites for more Information About:
- Your rights to be paid fairly, including how to file a wage complaint: dol.gov/WHD/immigration .
- Your right to join with other workers to improve your pay or working conditions, including how to file a charge: nlrb.gov .
- Your workplace safety rights, or if you think your job is unsafe and you want to request an inspection: osha.gov .
- How to get unpaid wages from your employer: dol.gov/wow .
- Your right not to face discrimination because of your citizenship status and to file a discrimination complaint: justice.gov/crt/filing-charge.
- Equality, and your rights to be free from discrimination at work because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information, and to file a discrimination charge: eeoc.gov .
- Human trafficking: state.gov/j/tip .
- Your rights, obligations and exemptions to health insurance: healthcare.gov (English)