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Guatemalans Can Work in Your U.S. Operations

Updated: Jan 16

Your U.S. operations can legally hire temporary and seasonal employees from Guatemala through the H2 visa program. Agriculture, animal care, childcare, construction, fishing, food processing, forestry, housekeeping, landscaping, maintenance, manufacturing, car/machine repair, and restaurants are U.S. industries that use H2 workers.


The H2 visa program began in 1952, allowing foreign farm labor in the United States. In 1986, the U.S. Congress divided the H2 program into H2A for agricultural and H2B for non-farm workers. During 2022, the U.S. government issued 298,000 H2A visas worldwide. From 2021-2022, it issued 125,000 H2Bs.


The issuance of an H2 visa involves a U.S. employer submitting a temporary labor certification application to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). This labor certification process includes a job order with the employer’s state work agency. Once the DOL certifies that an employer’s application is eligible for the H2 program they can submit a petition (Form I-129) to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for the Guatemalan workers they need. The names of the workers need not be listed if the request is for non-specialized labor. Guatemalans applying for H2 visas need to appear at the U.S. Consulate with their approved USCIS petition, a valid passport, and completed visa application materials.


DOL recommends beginning the H2 process at least 75 days in advance for H2A and 150 days for H2B. Also, your U.S. operations should check the USCIS website to see if the yearly statutory cap for the H2 visa class under which they seek to employ Guatemalans has been reached. The base filing fee for USCIS Form I-129 is $460 (+ $150 fraud prevention fee for an H2B petition). The employer must also reimburse or pay for their Guatemalan workers’ visa application fees as well as other charges associated with applying for the visa, but not for the Guatemalan worker’s passport. In addition, the employer must provide or reimburse their Guatemalan worker for transportation and subsistence from their home in Guatemala to the U.S. worksite, if the worker completes 50 percent of the period of employment covered by the job order. A Guatemalan H2 worker must be paid at least the U.S. federal or state minimum wage but may be entitled to more depending upon the job type and prevailing wage. H2A employers must provide housing and meals for their workers.

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