Are you employed in a non-agricultural industry and have an opportunity to temporarily work in the United States? The H-2B visa program allows for workers who are not in the agriculture industry to come to the United States and fill temporary job positions to provide labor, especially when there is a domestic shortage of workers in the U.S. Read on to find out if the H-2B visa might be the right option for you!
Industries that Qualify for H-2B Visas
H-2B visas are intended for low-skilled labor nonagricultural jobs that are temporary in nature. Some of the industries that can obtain an H-2B visa include:
- Hotel service;
- Restaurant workers;
- Theme parks;
- Construction industries;
- Seasonal attractions, like fairs or holiday festivals;
- Gardening; and
- Other low-skilled occupations that have higher demand for labor on a one-time or seasonal basis.
Overview of the requirements for H-2B classification
The H-2B visa was designed to help employers overcome labor shortages in non-agricultural industries. As a result, the employer must demonstrate one of several factors to successfully bring workers over to the United States on an H-2B visa:
To petition to bring an H-2B visa worker over for a one-time occurrence, the employer must demonstrate that there is a need for a temporary worker for a short duration, and that the employer never has or never will employ other people to perform the job. It must be a one-time, short-term need when there are no domestic workers available.
For some industries, there are certain seasons each year where worker shortages run rampant. To petition for an H-2B visa worker to come to the U.S. to fill a seasonal role, employers must demonstrate that the shortage in workers is tied to a particular season or event in the year, or that the shortage is in some other way recurring.
Two sub-types of seasonal need include peak load need and intermittent need. Peak load refers to when seasonal or short-term demand exceeds available labor supply. Intermittent need refers to when employers need labor performed short-term on an occasional or intermittent basis. In either scenario, as well as others that constitute seasonal need, it is crucial for employers to demonstrate the cyclical and/or intermittent nature of the work they are hiring for, as well as the labor shortage prompting them to utilize the H-2B visa.
Benefits of the H-2B visa
There are some key benefits to the H-2B visa for employers and workers. For employers, the primary benefit is that it expands the labor pool, enables them to employ more workers when necessary, and apply for multiple workers. For workers, the benefits are as follows:
- You can bring your dependent spouse and children to the United States, and the children can attend school;
- The visa is valid for one year, but it can be renewed in one-year increments for an additional two years;
- You can travel in and out of the U.S; and
- You can obtain a Green Card if your employer sponsors you for a Green Card based employment visa.
How to apply
The H-2B visa annual cap is at 66,000 per fiscal year. This is broken down into 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year, from October 1 to March 31; and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year, from April 1 to September 30.
The employer must undergo a recruitment process to establish the unavailability of U.S. workers for the position, to obtain a temporary labor certification from the Department of Labor. Then the employer must submit a petition to USCIS. If you are in the U.S., you can change your status and start working once the USCIS petition is approved. If you are outside the U.S., once the USCIS petition is approved, you must apply for the visa at the consulate before coming to the U.S. and starting the employment.
The H-2B visa requires advance planning as the process has multiple steps, which are time sensitive, and each step has various requirements. An immigration attorney can help you through each step to make sure you get the visa in time to start your employment.