U.S. Immigration Options for Agronomists


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


What is an Agronomist?

An agronomist is a professional who specializes in soil and crop science. Agronomists focus on improving the methods and techniques used in crop production and soil management. They play a crucial role in enhancing the efficiency, sustainability, and environmental friendliness of agricultural practices. By understanding and applying principles from various scientific disciplines, agronomists help increase crop yield and quality, which is essential for feeding a growing global population.

Key Responsibilities of Agronomists Include:

  1. Crop Management: Developing and implementing plans to manage crop production, including choosing the right seed, fertilizer, and planting techniques to maximize yield and sustainability.
  2. Soil Health: Studying soil properties to determine the most effective ways to enhance soil fertility and structure. This includes testing soil, interpreting the results, and recommending amendments to improve soil health.
  3. Pest and Disease Control: Identifying and managing pests and diseases that affect crops through integrated pest management techniques.
  4. Research: Conducting experiments and field trials to test new agricultural practices, crop varieties, and technologies. Agronomists continually seek to understand the interactions between plants, soils, and the environment.
  5. Sustainable Farming Practices: Promoting methods that support sustainable agriculture, such as crop rotation, cover cropping, and conservation tillage.
  6. Advisory and Extension Services: Providing advice and support to farmers and agricultural businesses. This includes making recommendations on crop rotation, irrigation practices, and the use of agrochemicals.
  7. Educational Outreach: Educating farmers and the agricultural community on best practices through workshops, seminars, and written materials.

Work Environment:

Agronomists work in a variety of settings including:

  • Farms: Directly engaging with farmers and agricultural workers to implement effective agricultural practices.
  • Research Institutions: Developing new agricultural methods and technologies in laboratory or field research environments.
  • Government Agencies: Helping to develop and enforce agricultural policies and standards.
  • Agribusiness Companies: Working for companies that produce seeds, fertilizers, and agricultural chemicals, focusing on product development and sales support.

Agronomists are integral to advancing agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability. Their expertise is vital in helping farmers adapt to changing environmental conditions, implement new technologies, and meet the economic demands of modern agricultural markets.


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 agronomy occupations which ordinarily require a Bachelor’s degree or higher in a field of agronomy have a nearly identical pathway in terms of requirements, but without the lottery and potentially without USCIS.

“Agronomist” 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 agronomy or a related field.

As less common options, agronomists 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 agronomists.

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.