Legal Blog

H-2B Work Visa: Benefits, Limitations, Requirements, and Application Process

The H-2B visa category[1] is available to skilled and unskilled seasonal non-agricultural workers. It is a viable option for many foreign workers who are looking to come to the U.S. for seasonal, one-time occurrence, or temporary work. Some types of employment such as entertainers, athletes, camp counselors, or business trainers may fall into this category.[2]

Benefits and Limitations of the H-2B Visa:

  1. One benefit to the H-2B visa category is that the visa holder can bring their spouse and children (unmarried and under 21 years old) to the U.S. Although dependents cannot work, they can attend school.
  2. The H-2B visa is valid for one year. Although it can be extended for one-year increments, this can be challenging.
  3. The maximum time allowed to stay in the U.S. with H-2B status is three years.
  4. There are numerical limits to H-2B visas approved per year. This limit has been set by Congress for a total of 66,000 per fiscal year and is divided by the first and second half of the year. 33,000 is allotted to the first half of the fiscal year (from October 1 to March 31) and the remainder 33,000 for the second half (from April 1 to September 30).

Requirements for the H-2B Visa for the Employer:

  1. The employer must have a seasonal, one-time, intermittent, or peak load employment need.
  2. There must be no other qualified and willing U.S. workers to fill the position.
  3. The job time-frame must not exceed one year.

Requirements for the H-2B Visa for the Employee:

  1. Before applying for the visa, the employee must already have a job offer.
  2. The employee must have the correct background and abilities to do the job.
  3. There must be proof of intent that the employee will return home prior to the visa expiration date.

H-2B Visa Fees and Costs:

  1. Filing fees for the I-129 Petition of Nonimmigrant Worker[3] will be paid by the U.S. employer to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  2. A visa application fee will be paid at the U.S. consulate.

H-2B Visa Application Process:

The H-2B visa application process is broken down into three main steps: apply for the labor certification, file a petition for the visa (form I-129) with the USCIS, and apply for visa from U.S. consulate abroad.

  1. The employer is required to provide evidence that no U.S. workers were available to fill the position. To show this, they will begin by advertising and recruiting for the job. If no U.S. workers were found, then the employer will apply for a temporary labor certification from their state workforce agency (SWA). The SWA will then transfer the case to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to finalize a decision on the labor certification.
  2. Once the labor certification is approved, the employer will file Form-129 petition for non-immigrant worker[4] with the USCIS. If the employee is already legally in the U.S. at the time, the employer can also petition for the employee’s status to be changed.
  3. Once the petition for the visa has been approved, those already in the U.S. who received a change of status are eligible to being working. For those outside of the U.S., the next step will be to apply for a U.S. visa in the home country. Visit the local consulate website for the application and procedures. Canadian Citizens are not required to apply at the consulate, the can go straight to the U.S. border with the required documents (listed below).

Documents Typically Required for the Visa Appointment:

  1. A printout of the Form DS-160[5] that was completed online.
  2. Notice of Approval for the I-129 petition issued by the USCIS.
  3. A Valid passport for the applicant and any dependents (spouse or children).
  4. One passport-style photo of the applicant and any dependents (2×2, in color with a white background).
  5. If the applicant’s spouse or children will be accompanying them to the U.S., provide documents showing proof of relationship (such as birth and marriage certificates).
  6. Documents showing intent to leave the U.S. once the H-2B visa expires (such as copies of an apartment lease, house feed, letters from an employer saying your job will be waiting for you, etc.).

Need Assistance?

You may be unsure if you qualify for the H-2B visa, how to prepare the appropriate paperwork, or know when the best time is to file your petition. Whether you are an employer or employee interested in the H-2B visa, we can assist you. We can help to assess the best visa categories for your employment purpose, determine if you qualify for the H-2B visa category, and guide you through the process.