U.S. Immigration Options for Agriculturists


Many U.S. immigration options exist for qualified international professionals in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) occupations, including in agriculture. Below we explore the temporary nonimmigrant visa categories and the permanent immigrant visa categories for permanent residency green cards.


What is an Agriculturist?

An agriculturist, also known as an agriculturalist, is a professional involved in the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculturists play a crucial role in the broader field of agriculture, which encompasses farming, agronomy, and agribusiness. Their work is integral to not only producing food, fiber, and animal products but also to managing and sustaining the agricultural resources necessary to meet the needs of a growing global population.

Key Areas of Expertise for Agriculturists Include:

  1. Crop Production: Understanding the growth, cultivation, and harvesting of crops essential for food, fuel, and raw materials.
  2. Animal Husbandry: Managing the care, breeding, and production of livestock.
  3. Soil Science: Studying soil properties to determine its suitability for different types of crops and managing soil health.
  4. Agronomy: Integrating sciences like biology, chemistry, ecology, and genetics to improve the efficiency of agriculture.
  5. Sustainable Agricultural Practices: Developing and promoting farming practices that protect the environment and enhance Earth’s natural resource base.
  6. Agricultural Economics: Applying economic principles to optimize agricultural production and distribution.
  7. Pest Management: Understanding and controlling pests and diseases that affect crop and livestock productivity.

Role of Agriculturists:

  • Research and Development: Innovating and improving agricultural methods, crop varieties, and technologies to increase yield and efficiency.
  • Farm Management: Overseeing farm operations, from planning and budgeting to marketing and sales.
  • Extension Services: Providing training and resources to farmers and rural communities to implement modern agricultural practices.
  • Regulatory Roles: Working within government agencies to develop policies and regulations that guide the agricultural sector.

Agriculturists are fundamental to ensuring food security and sustainability in agricultural practices, and their work impacts both economic and environmental aspects of agriculture. They may work in various settings, including farms, agribusiness firms, research institutions, and government agencies.


Temporary Nonimmigrant Visas

In reviewing potential options, a U.S. immigration attorney will generally start with the H-1B Specialty Occupation visa as the most common pathway for degreed professionals working in occupations that generally require a Bachelor’s degree or higher in a specific field.

Generally, this pathway requires an annual lottery due to the limitations of new H-1B visas which can be issued annually, which is why the following additional options may be considered. However, the exceptions to the lottery include employer sponsors who are universities, affiliated with universities, a nonprofit research institute, or a government research institute.

Singaporean and Chilean (H-1B1 visa) and Australian professionals (E-3 visa) working in agricultural occupations which ordinarily require a Bachelor’s degree or higher in a field of agriculture have a nearly identical pathway in terms of requirements, but without the lottery and potentially without USCIS.

“Agriculturist” is also one of a limited number of occupations listed in the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which are eligible for a Trade NAFTA (TN) visa, which is limited to degreed professionals from Canada and Mexico.

E-1 Treaty Investor and E-2 Treaty Investor companies can sponsor managers and essential skills employees with Bachelor’s degrees in agriculture or a related field.

As less common options, agriculturists who are being transferred from a company outside of the United States to come work in the United States may qualify for an L-1 Intracompany Transferee visa.  The O-1 Extraordinary Ability and Achievement visa may be worth reviewing for especially talented agriculturists.

As a short-term option if none of the above are viable, the J-1 Cultural Exchange visa may be a potential option for trainees for a training program up to 18 months in duration, perhaps while an H-1B visa is being pursued under the annual lottery (if required) followed by one of the green card strategies outlined below as a permanent solution.


Green Card Pathways

Employment-based permanent residency pathways usually involve a PERM Labor Certification regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor as a prerequisite. After successfully completing this process, the employer can sponsor the employee for permanent residency through the filing of an immigrant petition with appropriate evidence, after which the employee can apply for either an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad or a green permanent resident card as an adjustment of status from within the U.S. Until the end, this process does not confer any immigration status or ability to remain in the United States in the meantime while pending, so it’s important to pursue and maintain a temporary nonimmigrant visa if the current/prospective employee needs to be working in the United States.

Other potential immigrant visa or green card pathways could be EB-1 Extraordinary Ability or the EB-2 National Interest Waiver for especially qualified applicants, especially STEM PhD holders with a significant amount of peer-reviewed research, cited publications, and/or patents.


The above is informational and not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an experienced business immigration attorney on your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with any U.S. immigration strategy.