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Visa H-2B: a program for temporary jobs in the US

This article is part of Documented’s Glossary. We want to make it easier for all to understand the US immigration system. If you want to know more about different visa types and immigration terms, please check our library here.

The H-2B visa program allows U.S. companies to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs. To get permission, a U.S. employer must file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on a prospective worker’s behalf.

If you want to be up to date with the latest requirements, please always refer to USCIS website here.

What is the H-2B visa and how you can get temporary jobs in the U.S.

The H-2B visa, also known as temporary non-agricultural worker visa, is a specific visa offered to workers coming to the states temporarily to work. This visa allows workers to come to the United States to perform a non-agricultural job during seasonal, peak load and intermittent periods, and for one-time occurrences.

Also read: EB-5 visa. A permanent residency by investing in the US

Some rules to know about the H-2B visa

In order to have a successful application, an employer must “submit a job no more than 120 calendar days prior to the employer’s date of need.” This must also prove the job won’t “adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers,” and that there weren’t enough American citizens “capable of performing the temporary services or labor at the time of filing the petition for H-2B classification,” according to the Department of Labor website.

Family Members:

The spouse and children (as long as they are under 21 years old and unmarried) of H-2B primary beneficiaries are eligible for H-4 derivative status. As such, the spouse and children of the primary beneficiary may accompany him or her into the United States. Additionally, anyone with the H-4 derivative status will able to attend schools in the U.S.

Also read: Legal Help for immigrants in New York State

The H-2B visa has annual caps

Please see here the official information from USCIS.

The government issues 66,000 H-2B visas per fiscal year — 33,000 for workers employed between October 1 and March 31, and 33,000 for workers between April 1 and September 30.

Once the H-2B cap is reached, USCIS may only accept petitions for H-2B workers who are exempt from the H-2B cap.  For additional information on the current H-2B cap, and on workers who are exempt from it, see the Cap Count for H-2B Nonimmigrants Web page.

Elegible Countries

Effective Jan. 19, 2021, nationals from the following countries are eligible to participate in the H-2B program: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nauru, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, The Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, 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.

Period of Stay

Generally, USCIS may grant H-2B classification for up to the period of time authorized on the temporary labor certification.   H-2B classification may be extended for qualifying employment in increments of up to 1 year each.   A new, valid temporary labor certification covering the requested time must accompany each extension request.  The maximum period of stay in H-2B classification is 3 years.

A person who has held H-2B nonimmigrant status for a total of 3 years must depart and remain outside the United States for an uninterrupted period of 3 months before seeking readmission as an H-2B nonimmigrant.  Additionally, previous time spent in other H or L classifications counts toward total H-2B time.

Exception: Certain periods of time spent outside of the United States may “interrupt” an H-2B worker’s authorized stay and not count toward the 3-year limit.  See  the Calculating Interrupted Stay for H-2 Classifications Web page for additional information.

Also read: How The EB-1 Visa Can Lead to a Green Card

H-2B Program Process

  • Step 2The company files a nonimmigrant petition with the USCIS.  The petitioner must file Form I-129 with USCIS. The petitioner must include a printed copy of the electronic one-page “final determination” of the H-2B temporary labor certification approval with Form I-129.
  • Step 3: Prospective workers outside the United States apply for visa and/or admission.  After USCIS approved  Form I-129, prospective H-2B workers who are outside the United States must:
    • Apply for an H-2B visa with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad and then seek admission to the United States with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port of entry; or
    • Directly seek admission to the United States in H-2B classification with CBP at a U.S. port of entry in cases where an H-2B visa is not required.

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