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Foreign nationals who wish to enter the United States for temporary, seasonal, and non-agricultural work may do so with a nonimmigrant H-2B visa. However, it can be complex to obtain this visa. Both employees and employers should consult with an H-2B visa attorney for guidance through the process.

American Immigration Law Group has helped countless clients obtain an H-2B nonimmigrant visa. Call our team of H-2B work lawyers today at 314-416-8000 or use our online contact form to schedule a consultation.

What Is an H-2B Visa?

The H-2B work visa is a nonimmigrant visa allowing foreign citizens to enter the U.S. to temporarily work in non-agricultural employment that is seasonal, peak load, or a one-time incidence.

This guest worker program is administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA) also asserts some control over these workers.

H-2B visas are used for an array of worker types, including entertainers, athletes, camp counselors, medical personnel, business trainers, hotel and hospitality individuals, cruise line employees, landscaping and construction professionals, service industry workers, golf course employees, and other jobs that are often specialized in nature.

H-2B Visa Benefits

The H-2B visa has several benefits for employers and employees. In general, the H-2B visa:

  • Allows dependents to live in the United States with the visa holder.
  • Provides for free travel in and out of the U.S. as needed.
  • Is valid for the length of employment, not exceeding one year.
  • May be renewed in one-year increments for an additional two years.

Who Qualifies for an H-2B Visa?

Both skilled and unskilled seasonal non-agricultural workers may apply for an H-2B visa in the United States. However, some H-2B visa requirements must be met first.

Worker Requirements

There are certain requirements the employee must have to qualify for an H-2B visa, including the following:

  • They must have a valid job offer from a U.S. employer to work a temporary or seasonal non-agricultural job.
  • They must show evidence of intent to return to their home country upon completion of the work and expiration of the visa.

Employer Requirements

Employers seeking an employee with an H-2B visa must also meet the following requirements:

  • The U.S. employer must file an application requesting to hire foreign citizens for seasonal, non-agricultural labor.
  • The entity must be a partnership, corporation, or individual proprietorship.

In addition to the worker and employer requirement, it is necessary to show that there is a shortage of U.S. workers willing or able to take the job for the position being filled by the foreign national.

What Countries Qualify for H-2B Visas?

In addition to the requirements above, the employee who wants to obtain an H-2B visa must be from a qualifying country. The complete list of qualifying countries can be found on the USCIS website.

If you are from a country not on the eligible list, you should contact an H-2B immigration lawyer for help. You may still be able to obtain a guest work visa by meeting additional requirements.

The DHS makes this list based on how these countries process and issue travel documents. They also consider the number of removals issued against each country’s residents. Thus, the list may be modified periodically.

H-2B Visa Process

To obtain an H-2B visa, you will need to take the following steps:

1. Employer Petitions for a Temporary Labor Certification

The employer must petition on behalf of the foreign national employee to obtain a temporary labor certification from the DOL.

2. Employer Applies for the H-2B Visa

The employer should apply for the H-2B visa on behalf of the employee by submitting a USCIS Form I-129. The employer should include an original temporary labor certificate with the form as well as the “final determination” page from the DOL FLAG system, if applicable. The employer should keep copies of everything submitted.

3. Complete Necessary Forms

You need to complete the following before beginning the process of obtaining an H-2B visa:

  • Form ETA-9155 (application for H-2B registration)
  • Form ETA-0141 (application for prevailing wage determination)
  • Form ETA-9142 (application for temporary employment certification)

4. Employee Applies to Finalize the H-2B Visa in their Country

The final step in the process occurs when the employee applies with the U.S. embassy in their country to finalize the H-2B visa. If the individual is already in the United States, they can apply with Customs and Border Patrol.

The following documents should be taken to the U.S. embassy or Border Patrol when applying to finalize the H-2B visa:

  • Notice of Approval for H-2B visa
  • Job offer from U.S. employer
  • Passport
  • Two passport-sized photographs of yourself
  • Form DS-160 (This is an online form, so you should print the form and the receipt.)
  • Form DS-156 (application for non-immigrant visa)
  • Filing fees
  • Apartment lease or job contract for after your H-2B visa expires (proving you will not overstay your time on the temporary non-immigrant visa)

5. H-2B Visa Interview

You will be notified of an interview after you submit your documents to the U.S. embassy or Border Patrol. The H-2B interview process is similar to other interviews for green cards and foreign nationals entering the United States.

An H-2B visa lawyer can help you prepare for your interview. They will present you with potential questions and help you develop honest answers. If you go into it prepared, you won’t have to be anxious about your interview.

Processing Time

It can take two to five months to process an H-2B worker visa application. Employers should have all necessary paperwork completed ahead of time to expedite the process.

How Many H-2B Visas Are Granted Each Year?

There is a limit to how many H-2B visas can be allowed each year. That limit is set by Congress and is currently 66,000, with 33,000 to be allocated for employment in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 through March 31) and 33,000 for the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 through September 30).

There are a lot of applications for H-2B visas, so many people who apply do not receive one.

However, there are circumstances when the U.S. government will make more H-2B visas available. For example, in 2023, it added 64,716 H-2B visas for the fiscal year, to be allotted in two six-month periods.

How Long Can H-2B Visa Holders Stay in the U.S.?

You can stay in the United States for up to one year with an initial H-2B visa. However, if the employer can show they need you for a longer period and the employee can show they will still return to their home country when required, then the visa can be extended in one-year increments.

It’s important to note that extensions may be difficult to obtain in some circumstances and are not automatic.

The maximum time you can stay in the United States on an H-2B visa is three years.

What Are the Fees?

H-2B visa costs, including a filing fee, are paid by the employer of the foreign national worker. At the U.S. Consulate, the employee must pay a visa application fee.

The fees for visa services vary. Updated fee information can be seen on the U.S. Department of State Visa Service Fees web page.

The current (as of August 2023) visa application processing fee for the H-2B visa is $205.

Contact an H-2B Visa Attorney for Help Today

Obtaining an H-2B visa can be complicated. It requires specific forms, fees, and deadlines to obtain the visa for qualifying employees. An H-2B visa lawyer can guide you through the process and take the stress off your shoulders.

Call American Immigration Law Group today at 314-416-8000 or reach out online to schedule a consultation.