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Overview of H-2B Visa Requirements for Workers in the U.S.

Overview of H-2B Visa Requirements for Workers in the U.S.

Suppose you are a person who lives outside of the United States in an eligible country. In that case, you can come to the United States to work a temporary job with an H-2B visa. H-2B visas are for non-agricultural, temporary workers. Find everything you need to know about the H-2B visa process on this page. 

What Exactly Is an H-2B Visa?

The H-2B visa is a non-immigrant visa for non-agricultural workers. These visas allow you to come to the United States to work temporary positions. To obtain an H-2B visa, your U.S. employer or agent must file Form I-129 on your behalf. 

If you are a company in the United States looking to hire a foreign national, you will most likely file for an H-2B visa. Suppose you are an H-2B visa recipient or an employer filing on your employee’s behalf. In that case, you should be aware that there is a cap of 66,000 H-2B visas available to the first applicants. If you want to be granted an H-2B visa, you should apply as soon as possible. 

Since an H-2B visa is for seasonal workers, there are two application periods that you can apply:

  1. January with a cap of 33,000 visas 
  2. June with a cap of 33,000 visas

Coming to the United States on an H-2B visa provides the opportunity to work in the United States temporarily. The H-2B program is a great chance to work in industries that need workers to boost the U.S. economy and provide opportunities for foreign nationals to work legally and get paid fairly.

Types of H-2B Visa Jobs

The H-2B visa is specifically for non-agricultural workers. Any temporary, seasonal job out of the agricultural industry will obtain H-2B visas. If you are an agricultural employer looking to hire foreign nationals, you will apply on behalf of your employee for an H-2A visa

H-2B visa jobs include positions in the following industries:

  • Construction
  • Landscaping
  • Service industry (such as restaurants and bars)
  • Hotels and hospitality
  • Cruise lines
  • Winter sports resorts such as skiing and snowboarding
  • Summer parks such as resorts, theme parks, water parks, etc.
  • Golf courses
  • Janitorial positions for seasonal jobs
  • Any other non-agricultural seasonal position 

Qualifications for H-2B International Applicants

You must be from an eligible country to qualify for an H-2B visa. The H-2B Eligible Countries List can be found further down this page. You must also demonstrate that you are qualified for the position for which you are being recruited. Additionally, you must prove that you will return to your country of origin when your H-2B Visa expires. 

H-2B Visa Qualifications for Employers

As an employer, you are the one who applies for the H-2B visa on behalf of your employee. To qualify as an H-2B employer, you need to prove that the work you provide is temporary. The position must fit the temporary qualifying work:

  1. Seasonal work that happens yearly on a cycle for a particular season.
  2. A temporary worker program is needed for a one-time situation, such as an employee on medical leave or the need for a temporary employee hired for a short-term position, which will not be filled after the temporary period.
  3. Short-term demand for positions that run year-round but need extra help at a particular time
  4. Short-period staffing means positions are constant, but the staff is temporary and is hired for short time stints.

You will also need to file the following forms to be eligible:

  • Form ETA-9155, application for H-2B registration
  • Form ETA-9141, Application for Prevailing Wage Determination
  • Form ETA-9142, Application for Temporary Employment Certification

Additionally, to hire foreign nationals, you need to prove that there are no U.S. citizens who can do the job; you need to prove that U.S. citizens are not willing, able, or qualified. To prove this, you need to show that you went through a recruitment process that offers work to be open for a minimum of 21 days before hiring foreign nationals. 

Employers must also provide the following to their employees who come to the U.S. on an H-2B visa:

  • Fair wages that are equal to or more than what the employer would pay U.S. citizen employees
  • At least three meals per day. If you cannot provide the means, you must provide a kitchen for your employees. You can also charge your employees, but the meals must be provided.
  • If your employees live off-site, you need to provide transportation to get to and from their place of residency.

H-2B Eligible Countries List

If you are from these countries, you can get an H-2B visa:

  • Andorra
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Kiribati
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • North Macedonia
  • Madagascar
  • Malta
  • Mauritius 
  • Mexico
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Mozambique
  • Nauru
  • The Netherlands
  • Nicaragua
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Peru
  • The Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Saint Lucia
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Timor-Leste
  • Turkey
  • Tuvalu
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay
  • Vanuatu

If you are from Taiwan or a country not on this list, talk to the experienced attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C. You will need to provide additional H-2B visa requirements.

The Department of Homeland Security determines the countries on this list based on the country’s willingness and process of issuing travel documents and the number of removals issued against that country’s residents. 

How Long Can I Be In The U.S. With an H-2B Visa?

You can stay in the United States on an H-2B visa for up to one year. H-2B visa holders can stay to work in the United States for the time that the temporary labor certificate allows. 

When your temporary labor certificate is about to expire, you are allowed to extend the temporary labor certificate, therefore your H-2B classification, for one year. You can do it for a maximum of three (3) years. Meaning: you are only allowed to have an H-2B visa classification for three years total, including extensions. It’s important to note that if you have been in the United States on another type of H visa or L visa, your time with those visas is included in the three years of stay.

Reapplying for H-2B Visa 

Even though you can have your H-2B visa for only three years, that means three years at a time, including your H-2B visa extensions. After your three years maximum stay, you must leave the United States for at least three months. After the three months outside of the United States have occurred, you can enter with another H-2B visa. 

How To Apply for an H-2B Visa

There are three steps to applying for the H-2B visa:

  1. The employer petitioning on behalf of the foreign national employee must apply for a temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). If you are located in Guam, you will request a temporary labor certificate from the Guam DOL. The employer then must receive the temporary labor certificate. 
  2. The petitioning employer applies for the H-2B visa on behalf of the employee by submitting USCIS Form I-129. The employer needs to include the original temporary labor certificate. Make sure you talk with your immigration attorney before submitting Form I-129. It is not typical to submit original documents to USCIS unless otherwise requested (such as applying for an H-2B visa). The employer will submit the “final determination” page from the DOL FLAG system if applicable. Keep copies of everything. 
  3. The employee must apply to finalize the H-2B visa with the U.S. embassy in their country. If you are already in the United States, you can apply with Customs and Border Patrol.  

H-2B Visa Requirements and Evidence

After your employer files Form I-129 and you have H-2B visa approval, the journey is not finished yet. You will need to go to the U.S. embassy in your country and provide them with the required documents and evidence needed to finalize your H-2B visa process. Bring these documents to your U.S. embassy: 

  • Your Notice of Approval for H-2B visa
  • Your job offer from your future U.S. employer
  • Passport
  • Two Passport-size photos
  • Form DS-160. This is an online form, so bring the form and the receipt. 
  • Form DS-156, application for non-immigrant visas
  • Filing fees
  • An apartment lease or job contract for after your H-2B visa expires. This is to provide proof that you will not overstay your time on your temporary non-immigrant visa.

Additionally, if you are a male between the ages of 16 and 45, you also need to provide a DS-157 form. 

H-2B Visa Interview

After you have turned in your required documents and the U.S. embassy has reviewed them, they will notify you of a visa interview. You will be interviewed to obtain your H-2B visa. You will receive your visa and enter the United States for work if accepted.  

H-2B Visa Processing Time

Since H-2B visas are for temporary workers, it usually takes two to five months to process the application. For employers who know they want to hire foreign nationals, make sure you have all of your DOL paperwork ahead of time. 

H-2B Visa Filing Fee

The filing fee to obtain your H-2B visa is $190. 

 H-2B Visa Cap Explained 

A cap is a limit to the number of visas USCIS allows to be given out to non-U.S. citizens. A cap is a limit on the number of visas issued by USCIS to non-US citizens. The cap is per fiscal year, with two cycles each. Each fiscal year, there is a limit of 33,000 H-2B visas for every cycle. There are two cycles per fiscal year, making the total cap 66,000 visas that USCIS gives out. 

The cycles are based on when workers begin their jobs in the United States. 

  1. The first cycle is set for October 1 through March 31
  2. The second cycle (the second half of the year) is for April 1 through September 30

If you apply for the first half and are not granted an H-2B visa, the application will become available for the second half of your employment type. However, this only lasts for the first to second cycle per year. The applications do not proceed in fiscal years. You need to reapply during the first cycle of the fiscal year. Pay attention to the final receipt date for each cycle. The final receipt date is the date that USCIS has reached its cap. 

Difference Between H-2A And H-2B Visas

The primary difference between H-2A and H-2B visas is that H-2A is for agricultural workers specifically, whereas H-2B is meant for non-agricultural workers. Another significant difference is that H-2B visa applications have a fiscal cap, given twice yearly (66,000 total). The H-2A visa does not have a cap on the number of applications. 

Contact Experienced Immigration Attorneys

The skilled immigration visa and green card lawyers at Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C. have over 70 years of combined experience in immigration and naturalization law. The H-2B visa application process needs to be done on time, with all the necessary documents ready at the time of the application opening. Working with our immigration attorneys can ensure that all of your paperwork is done properly with attention to detail. 

Filing for immigration forms can be complicated. Ease the stress by working with the immigration attorneys at our office. Contact us at 312.444.1940 to fill out an online contact form today.

We look forward to hearing from you!  

If you are looking for information on the H1B application, click here. H-2B is for temporary workers, so the H-2B visa switch to a green card is not an easy option. Talk to your immigration attorney at  Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C.  for green card opportunities. 

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