Requirements and how to apply for an H-2B temporary work visa in the U.S.


Each year, the United States issues thousands of H-2 visas to workers with or without experience (non-professional and without an academic degree) to work temporarily in the country. This category is divided into two types of visas: the H-2A for agricultural workers and the H-2B for non-agricultural workers.

In 2020, the U.S. granted a total of 65,716 H-2B visas, filled mostly by gardeners, forestry workers, and meat cutters.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on May 16 the availability of 35,000 additional H-2B visas for temporary nonagricultural workers for the first half of fiscal year 2022. These additional visas may be applied for by U.S. employers beginning April 1, 2022.

The countries whose nationals received the highest number of H-2B visas were Mexico with 74.7%, followed by Jamaica with 8.9% and Guatemala with 2.7%, according to a report by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Unlike H-2A visas, H-2B visas are subject to an annual cap determined by Congress, which is currently 66,000 workers per year.

Despite the annual cap, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in late January the availability of an additional 20,000 H-2B visas for temporary nonagricultural workers for the first half of fiscal year 2022.

However, 23,500 of these visas are available for workers returning to perform temporary work in the U.S. under an H-2B visa or for those who were granted H-2B status during one of the last three fiscal years; the remaining 11,500 visas are reserved for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

On the DOL website you can see the temporary jobs available in the United States, as well as their description, duration, location, pay and contact information.

But what is the process for applying for this visa and who qualifies? Here are the steps to obtain an H-2B visa.

Requirements for employers

The petitioner or employer must demonstrate that there are not enough U.S. workers who are "able, willing, available, and qualified to perform the temporary work."

Employing workers under the H-2B visa must not adversely affect U.S. workers employed in similar jobs, and the applicant workers' work must be temporary in nature. USCIS considers a job to be temporary if it:

Occurs on a one-time basis: a petitioner argues that the need occurs on a one-time basis and demonstrates that he or she has not previously hired workers to perform the service and will not need them in the future, or that it is a permanent employment situation but that a temporary or short-term event created the need for a temporary worker.

It is seasonal: the service or job for which you are seeking workers is related by an event or pattern of events of a recurring nature.

Broadly speaking, the application process for the H2-B program is as follows:

The petitioner submits an application for Temporary Foreign Labor Employment Certification from the DOL.

The petitioner must file a Form I-129 with USCIS.

Applicant workers outside the U.S. must apply for the H-2B visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad and then apply for admission at a port of entry. They must bring a valid passport, a valid petition number (found on the job offer) and proof of payment of the $190 visa application fee to the appointment.

How long can I work in the U.S. on an H2-B visa?

The maximum period of stay is 3 years. After 3 years, H-2B visa beneficiaries must leave the U.S. for a period of 3 continuous months before applying for readmission under the same type of visa.

The H-2B visa is granted for a term of one year, although two extensions of up to one year each may be requested. The extension application must be filed prior to its expiration and workers may remain in the U.S. during the extension process.

Workers who receive the extension do not have to apply for a new visa, as long as they do not leave the U.S., and in case they return to their home country, they must apply for a new visa before re-entering the U.S.

Can I bring my family to the U.S.?

Yes, an H-2B worker may bring a spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 under the H-4 classification. However, family members are not eligible to work in the U.S.

Countries eligible for H-2B visas

These are the Latin American countries eligible to participate in the H-2B program in 2021:

Argentina

Brazil

Chile

Colombia

Costa Rica

Ecuador

El Salvador

Guatemala

Honduras

Mexico

Nicaragua

Panama

Peru

Uruguay


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