USA and the UK
What is an H-2B Visa?
The H2B Visa is a non-immigrant permit that allows an U.S employer to hire foreign employees for temporary jobs. It can be used to perform services or labor on a one-time, seasonal, and intermittent basis.
To be eligible, you must receive a formal offer from an U.S.-based employer. Your company must then file a Form I-129 (Petition for Non-immigrant Worker) on your behalf.
Every fiscal year, the USCIS sets a statutory numerical limit on the total number of H-2B visas that can be issued. This means that typically only 66,000 foreign workers can enter the U.S. under this visa, 33,000 of which is only in the first half of the year (from October to March).
What are the H2B Visa requirements?
Before you can file your petition, you must find a U.S.-based sponsor and receive an offer to perform a temporary job. Moreover, you must meet the following H2B Visa requirements:
- You must come from one of the countries that the Secretary of State has designed as eligible to participate in the H2B Visa Program
- You must meet the minimum qualifications needed for the job that you wish to perform
- Your sponsor must file a Form I-129 to the U.S. Immigration Bureau
- You must have non-immigrant intent, meaning you are willing to go back home when your visa expires
- You must hold all the qualifications required to fill your desired position
What kinds of jobs qualify for the H2B Visa Program?
The H2B Visa Program allows you to work in the U.S. in several fields. These include hospitality, construction, warehouse, and retail stores.
For H2B purposes, your service is considered temporary if it is a(n):
- Intermittent need, meaning that there are not full-time workers available to perform it
- One-time occurrence. This means your employer has never employed workers for a similar service in the past, nor will need to do that again in the future
- Seasonal need. The duration of your job cannot be subject to change and cannot coincide with the vacation period of other permanent employees.
What is the processing time for an H2B Visa?
Your journey through your H2B Visa Program begins when your U.S. sponsor submits a Form I-129 to the USCIS. However, your employer must first obtain a Temporary Labor Certification from the Department of Labor. By doing this, your company establishes that there are no U.S. workers available to fill that position.
Once your I-129 Form has been approved, you can apply for your H2B Visa from outside the U.S.
If you hold a copy of your petition, you may seek admission to the country at a port of entry. If you are already in the U.S. and you are changing from one non-immigrant status to another, you may not need an H2B Visa.
The H2B Visa processing time may take a long time, depending on the number of petitions that the USCIS needs to process. For this reason, it is advisable for both the employer and the employees to take into consideration potential delays. As a general rule, your H2B Visa sponsor can file the request a minimum of 60 days, but no more than 120 days, before your services are needed.
How long will my H2B Visa last?
Generally, the USCIS will grant your H2B Visa for up to the period your employer requires your service.
Before your visa expires, you may extend your maximum period of stay in increments of up to 1 year each, for a total of no more than three years. However, your renewal will be granted only if extraordinary circumstances exist.
Every time you apply for a renewal, your company needs to require or extend its Labor Certification.
After you have spent three years in the U.S. under the H2B Visa Program, you must leave the country. You may seek readmission on the same visa, but only after spending an uninterrupted period of three months away from the U.S.
If you finish your job earlier, or your services are not required anymore, the USCIS must be notified. You will be asked to leave the U.S., but you will be able to reapply for a fresh H2B Visa.
Can I change my status from H2B Visa to Green Card?
The H2B Visa is a non-immigrant, temporary program. This means you must go back to your home country when you finish your job or when your visa expires. In other words, you cannot directly change your status from H2B Visa to a Green Card. Nevertheless, you can seek another non-immigrant permit. To be eligible, you must find a new employer and then file a fresh Form I-129.
If you wish to apply for an immigrant visa (for example, an EB2 Green Card) you must first go back to your home country and then submit your petition.
Can my dependents join me in the U.S. on the H2B Visa Program?
Your immediate family can join you in the U.S. by seeking admission under the H4 non-immigrant classification. In other words, only your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible for a dependents visa.
It must be underlined that once in the U.S., your relatives will not be authorized to seek employment or to apply for a work visa. They can stay in the country as long as you hold authorized stay as a visa holder.
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Before the USCIS approves your Form 1-129, your H2B sponsor must provide evidence about the position. To this end, your company must obtain valid Temporary Labor Certification from the Department of Labor. In other words, your employer must prove that:
- There are no U.S. workers who can perform that temporary work;
- Your position within the company will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of your U.S. colleagues.
Every year, the number of foreign workers who wish to enter the U.S. for a temporary job increases significantly. However, the USCIS has set a cap of only 66,000 H2B permits that can be released every fiscal year. Of these, 33,000 petitions are approved in the first half of the year (from October 1 to March 31).
Any available permit from the first period of the year will be accessible for workers seeking entrance from April to September. However, unissued visas from one fiscal year cannot be carried over into the next.
The H2B Visa cost is the same as all the other Temporary Employment permits, that is $190.
Please, note that, under the U.S. Immigration Law, no agent, petitioner or recruiter is allowed to collect job placement fees. Any form of compensation related to the H2B conditions of employment is prohibited.
If you are been asked to pay additional fees other than the H2B Visa cost, you must report your case to the USCIS.
While in the U.S. on an H2B Visa, you can undertake short periods of study. However, you cannot engage in full-time activities that may interfere with your temporary job.
The H-2B Visa is valid only for temporary jobs. In other words, if you wish to seek continuous and permanent employment in the U.S., this is not the right permit for your situation.
Establishing what jobs and services fall into the legal categories of “intermittent need” or “seasonal need” may not be easy. Every year, several applicants have their petitions rejected because they fail to submit evidence of their case.
For this reason, it is advisable to seek legal guidance. At IAS, our immigration attorneys are ready to offer their best immigration advice to help you enter the U.S. for a temporary job.
If you are a U.S. company and you wish to employ foreign workers, we can guide you through this process as well.
Our bespoke H2B Visa Program service includes:
- Review your job offer or contract to assess your role’s eligibility;
- Help your H2B Visa sponsor obtain a Temporary Labor Certifications;
- Check your supporting documentation;
- Liaise with your U.S.-based sponsor;
- Check the progress and the status of your application depending on the annual cap.
To get in touch with one of our immigration lawyers, call us on +1844 290 6312 or use our online contact form.