Factbox: U.S. visa types for immigrants: Papers in farmland

Wed Jun 20, 2012 8:34am EDT
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By Mary Wisniewski and Christine Stebbins

CHICAGO (Reuters) - There are some 185 different types of visas offered by the U.S. State Department. The government approved 7.5 million visas in 2011, with 94 percent for those who enter the U.S. on a temporary basis for travel or short-term work. The remaining 6 percent were awarded to immigrants seeking permanent residency.

Immigration experts estimate that at least 12 million immigrants remain undocumented and thus illegal in the United States, including thousands of workers in agriculture and food-related industries.

The primary document for all foreign and U.S. workers is the I-9 employment eligibility verification form, which includes original documentation that workers are eligible to work in the United States.

The program began on November 1, 1986, under the Immigration and Reform Control Act. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) has beefed up its monitoring of I-9 forms in recent years - 2,496 audits in 2011 versus 254 in 2007 - to deter employers from hiring illegal immigrants.


The U.S. awards temporary-work H2 visas, which are approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, for stays of up to a year, though they can renewed for up to three years. Farm workers use H-2A visas, while meat plant workers at times have used H-2B visas. There is no annual cap on H-2A visas, but there is an annual cap of 66,000 visas for H-2B workers.

U.S. agribusiness Cargill has applied for H2-B visas twice in the past 10 years: In 2007, 62 visas were approved for its Beardstown, Illinois pork plant, and in 2008 45 were granted for the company's meat division headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

DIVERSITY VISAS   Continued...