USCIS Grants One-Time Accommodation for Sheepherders in H-2A Status
WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it would allow H-2A workers in the sheepherding industry more time to fully transition to the three-year limitation of stay requirements under the agency’s final rule that became effective on Jan. 17, 2009. USCIS is making the one-time accommodation in deference to the industry’s prior exemption from the 3-year limitation. This exemption does not impact other H-2A categories.
The time spent as an H-2A worker performing labor or services as a sheepherder prior to the effective date of the final rule will not be counted toward the 3-year maximum period of stay. Instead, USCIS is ‘starting the clock’ on Jan. 17, 2009 for sheepherders who were lawfully present in the United States in H-2A classification on that date.
All H-2A nonimmigrant workers – including those in the sheepherding industry – are subject to a three-month departure requirement once they have been present in the U.S. in H-2A status for the maximum three-year period. For example, an H-2A sheepherder present in the U.S. on Jan. 17, 2009 is required to depart from the U.S. not later than Jan. 16, 2012 for a period of at least three months before he/she would again be eligible for H-2A classification.
Any Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) that was denied solely on the basis that the beneficiary, who would be performing labor or services as a sheepherder, had exceeded the three-year limitation of stay, may be reopened by initiating a Service Motion to Reopen via e-mail request to:
Beneficiaries must be eligible to perform the labor or services stated on the petition. Additional evidence may be requested in any case where a final decision cannot be made based solely on the evidence of record. Also, if a petition was denied on other grounds, or if the petitioner fails to submit requested evidence of the beneficiary’s continuing eligibility, the original denial of the case will be reaffirmed.
The H-2A program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the U.S. to fill temporary agricultural jobs. USCIS published a final rule affecting the program on Jan. 17, 2009 which removed certain limitations on H-2A employers and adopted streamlining measures in order to encourage and facilitate the lawful employment of foreign temporary and seasonal agricultural workers.
For more information on the H-2A nonimmigrant visa program and current Form I-129 processing times, visit www.uscis.gov or call the National Customer Service Center at (800) 375-5283.
Last Reviewed/Updated: 12/31/2009