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 nonagricultural jobs.
Information for H-2 visa applicants
This video provides a brief outline of the H-2 visa application process. 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 visa agent, or a job fair can get you started. The U.S. Consulate does not have a “job bank” or offer a list of available jobs. Many local and state governments in Mexico have contact information for “Centers of Attention for Immigrants” that can provide more information about job opportunities in the United States.
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 before scheduling workers for visa appointments. You can verify the legitimacy of the petition by contacting U.S. Consulate Monterrey’s Fraud Prevention Unit by phone at 01-800-108-4724 or by email at VisasMTR@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 the Consulate. It is important to tell the truth on your application. You must list any previous arrests, prior time spent in the United States and times that you attempted to cross the border. 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 can be made at any Banamex or Scotiabank branch in Mexico. 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. If you are asked to pay any additional illegal fees, please contact our Fraud Prevention Unit at 01-800-108-4724 or VisasMTR@state.gov. Our staff speak Spanish and all calls are confidential.
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 – confirm that your passport data is correct, including your date of birth, gender, spelling of your name, and that it is valid for the duration of your planned stay in the U.S.
- 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 in Mexico make all appointments for their workers. If you intend to schedule your own appointment, you may do so by following the instructions on the Official U.S. Department of State Visa Appointment Service website.
Step 5: Attend your appointment at the Applicant Service Center to submit your photograph and fingerprints. If your appointment is at the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, you will first go to the Applicant Service Center to submit your photograph and fingerprints.
Step 6: Come to your visa interview at the U.S. Consulate two days later. It is important to tell the truth during your interview. You must disclose any previous arrests, prior time spent in the United States and times that you attempted to cross the border. These activities do not necessarily disqualify you from the H-2 visa program. However, concealing prior unlawful presence, crossing attempts or arrests will result in the denial of the visa and may lead to a permanent visa ineligibility.
Step 7: 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 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 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 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 workers at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas. In Mission Mexico, H-2 visa applications are processed in seven consulates: Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Juarez, Hermosillo, Nogales, Matamoros, and Tijuana. While individuals are able to make appointments, in general, petitioners and/or their agents in Mexico make all appointments for their workers. 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
Frequently Asked Questions
Why was my visa refused? — For specific information on your visa refusal, please refer to the refusal letter given to you at the end of the visa interview. If you are found to be ineligible for a visa, you will be given a refusal letter with the specific reason(s) why you were ineligible. As each person’s situation is different, there is no single reason that explains all refusals. The most common reason for being refused is that you did not demonstrate to the officer’s satisfaction that you meet the qualifications for the visa category, or that your planned activities in the U.S. are allowed by that category. Another reason for visa refusals is that your previous immigration violations or criminal convictions resulted in a visa ineligibility under Section 212(a) of the INA.
I was refused a visa and was told that I am ineligible. What does this mean? — For certain applicants, their current and/or past activities may make them ineligible for a visa. Depending on the ineligibility, the interviewing consular officer will inform the applicant whether he/she qualifies for a waiver. If the consular officer decides to apply for the waiver of ineligibility, he or she will provide the processing instructions. Waiver recommendations are made by the Department of State and sent to the Department of Homeland Security, which is ultimately responsible for making decisions relating to all waiver applications.
Refusals under INA 212(a)(9)(C)(i) and INA 212(a)(9)(C)(ii): After you have been physically outside the United States for more than 10 years since the date of your most recent immigration violation, applicants with (9)(C)(i) and (9)(C)(ii) ineligibilities may file Form I-212 with the CBP Admissibility Review Office to obtain consent to reapply for admission to the United States. The U.S. Consulate does not play a role in the I-212 application or adjudication process. If the consent to reapply is approved, the applicant would not need to apply for a temporary waiver for these ineligibilities when applying for a visa overseas. For instructions on how to file Form I-212, please visit the CBP and USCIS websites.
Why was I refused under INA 221(g)? What is “administrative processing”? — If an applicant is refused 221(g), this means the consular officer did not have all of the information or documents needed in order to process the application to conclusion. The applicant is told what is needed in writing at the time of the interview. When the required information is submitted in a timely manner, the visa processing can continue to conclusion, and the applicant does not need to reapply for the visa. Bringing in the necessary documents does not necessarily mean the visa will be issued, but it does mean that the adjudication process can resume and be completed.
How can I check on the status of my application? — You can check the status of a visa online by clicking here. You need to provide the confirmation number that appears on your DS-160 barcode sheet. The case status codes are as follows:
- “Application received” – the application has not yet been adjudicated
- “Administrative Processing” – the application is undergoing administrative processing
- “Refused” – the application has been refused
- “Issued” – the visa has been issued
I want to inquire about the visa refusal of someone I know. Why can’t I get information?— Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Section 222(f), the records of the Department of State relating to visa decisions are confidential, and therefore information may not be provided to third parties about a particular visa applicant. Certain information may be provided to people acting on behalf of and with the permission of the applicant. These people may include petitioners, attorneys, or members of Congress.
Can I use a credit card to pay my $190 USD application fee?
Effective August 29, 2017, Mission Mexico no longer accepts credit card payment for non-immigrant visa application fees except for H-2 seasonal workers whose visa fees are paid by U.S.-based petitioners. U.S.-based H-2 petitioners may continue to use credit cards as a form of payment through their group user accounts on the Official U.S. Department of State Visa Appointment Service website.
If you prefer to make the payment in cash, create a profile on the U.S. Visa Service website and then print a payment receipt to take to any Citi Banamex or Scotiabank location across Mexico to submit your cash payment. Following payment, you will be able to schedule your interview appointment. See https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-mx/niv/information/fee for more information about making a bank payment.
Why was my application fee not returned when my visa application was refused? — The fee that paid is an application fee. 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 a visa is issued or not, since the application was processed to conclusion. If the application was refused under Section 214(b) and you choose to reapply for a visa in the future, you will again be required to pay the visa application processing fee.
Can I appeal a visa refusal? — There is no appeal for visa denials; however, any applicant may reapply for a non-immigrant visa if he/she can present evidence of a significant change in circumstances since the last application. In some cases, the applicant may have one or more visa ineligibilities and cannot be issued a visa under immigration law.
I still have questions about the H-2 visa program. Who can I contact? — Please read this FAQ first and watch this video that explains the H-2 visa application process. If you still have questions, you may email: MonterreyH2Visas@state.gov. If your visa application was refused, please reference the letter given to you at the time of the interview.
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 percent confidential and operators speak Spanish.
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 01-800-108-4724 or VisasMTR@state.gov. Our staff speak Spanish and all calls are confidential.
Signs that your job offer may not be legitimate:
- The recruiter constantly changes the date of the appointment at the Consulate or date of departure for the U.S.
- 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.
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 01-800-108-4724 or VisasMTR@state.gov. Our staff speak Spanish and all calls are confidential.
For more information on H-2 worker’s rights in the United States, please read the pamphlets linked here:
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 3/4 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) and ayudalocal.cuidadodesalud.gov (Spanish).