How to Apply for an H-2B Temporary Work Visa to US
November 2023 Update: The USCIS announced that they will be adding over 60,000 additional H-2B visas in 2024.
Learn more about this H-2B update.
The H-2B Visa is a temporary non-agricultural work permit available to applicants who are coming to the United States. They are for skilled and unskilled workers, unlike the H-1B visa which is for highly skilled workers in “specialty occupations.” The H-2B program requires the employer to attest to the Department of Labor that they will offer a wage that equals or exceeds the highest of the prevailing wage, applicable federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage, OR local minimum wage to the H-2B nonimmigrant worker.
Qualifications for a H-2B Visa Petitioner
- There are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work
- Employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers
- Its need for the prospective worker’s services or labor is temporary, regardless of whether the underlying job can be described as temporary. The employer’s need is considered temporary if it is:
- Recurring seasonal need: Work regularly tied to a season
- Intermittent need: Work when an employer doesn’t have full-time staff and needs occasional workers
- Peak-load need: Work during busy periods for the employer when additional staff is needed
- One time occurrence: Work needed during a short, one time period
H-2B Visa Cap
There is a limit on the total number of applicants who may be issued an H-2B visa or otherwise granted H-2B status during a fiscal year. Currently, the H-2B cap has been set at 66,000 per year. However, unused H-2B numbers from one fiscal year do not carry over into the next.
Once the H-2B cap is reached, USCIS may only accept petitions for H-2B workers who are exempt from the H-2B cap.
Period of Stay
Generally, the USCIS may grant those on an H-2B status up to the period of time authorized on the temporary labor certification. Those may be extended for qualifying employment in increments of up to 1 year each. The maximum period of stay in H-2B classification is 3 years.
How to Apply for an H-2B Visa
Step 1: Petitioner submits a temporary labor certification application to DOL
Step 2: Petitioner submits Form I-129 to USCIS
Step 3: Prospective workers outside the United States apply for visas and/or admission.
States With The Highest # of
Top H-2B Occupations in the
How H-2B Visa Holders Contribute to the Economy
H-2B workers contribute by filling job shortages and more H-2B workers correlate with higher wages for all workers and more economic growth. According to a 2010 report by Immigration Works USA and the US Chamber of Commerce, a 1% increase in the number of H-2B workers was associated with a 0.05 percent increase in wages for skilled and unskilled US workers, both citizens and non-US citizens. The report indicated that the H-2B program increases job opportunities for and does not adversely affect US citizen workers.
H-2B Visa FAQ
The most essential aspect of qualifying for an H-2B visa is show the INS that your prospective employment in the U.S is temporary or seasonal and is nonagricultural. You also require a suitable background for the job that is offered. The U.S. employer’s need for a foreign worker must be “temporary” in the sense that the employment should be for one year or less. In most cases, the job offered is tied to a specific project that requires the services of a foreign employee and that can be completed within a finite time period. Employment involving temporary project management and consulting positions and training positions are typical examples of H-2B jobs.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the H-2B visa process is what is known as Labor Certification. Basically, to qualify for an H-2B visa, you must satisfy the U.S government that there are no qualified Americans willing or able to hold the position offered by the U.S employer. This involves filing applications to the Department of Labor (DOL) and to the INS. The DOL will require that the U.S. employer advertise for the position to American workers. Only where the employer fails in finding a qualified U.S worker from its advertising efforts, will the temporary labor certification be approved and only then it will be possible for a successful H-2B application.
Once the DOL approves the labour certification, the U.S employer is required to file an I-129 Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker with an INS Service Center with the jurisdiction over the place of employment. After the INS has approved the Petition, the foreign worker can apply for the visa at a U.S Consulate in his or her home country. If the foreign worker is already in the United States he or she may file in the U.S under certain conditions.
H-2B status is valid for a maximum of three years. After this three year period has expired, the foreign worker cannot seek to extend or change status, nor can he or she be readmitted to the U.S. under the H and L nonimmigrant classification unless such person has resided and been physically present outside the United States for the immediate prior six months.
The H-2B visa is issued in one year increments with discretionary one year extensions of stay permissible until the total three years of H-2B eligibility has been reached.
Why Seeking Professional Help for an H-2B Visa is Vital
With many specific steps to fulfill for a successful H-2B visa application, there are often challenges and missed details that can lead to a failed attempt. All the ‘t’s need to be crossed and the ‘i’s dotted, and an applicant that submits without legal help can easily make a simple but crucial error. With the help of experienced immigration legal experts, each step of the process will get the proper attention it requires, and increase your chances to a successful application.
Why Hire Us to Help You With Your H-2B Visa Application?
When you are planning to come to work in the U.S., we know there are many details that you need to coordinate in order to be comfortable in a new country. This is one of the reasons we recommend our services, so we can concentrate on the nitty gritty of the legal process. The other main reason is because the process is by no means easy. We have helped thousands of foreign individuals to successfully enter the U.S. with H-2B visas and we can help you too!