The US H-2B visa

From ski resort workers in Colorado to amusement park employees in Florida, 66,000 temporary workers come to the US on H2B visas.

Who is eligible for a H-2B Visa?

The H2B visa is available to employers of foreign workers not working in the agricultural field. This visa is only available for work that is temporary in nature. For H2B purposes, that means:

  • Recurring seasonal need;
  • Intermittent need;
  • Peak-load need; and
  • One time occurrence.

The employer must also prove that there are no unemployed US workers willing or able to do the work. This is established through the state's employment agency using a labor certification process. This process requires a recruitment campaign, including advertising in a local newspaper for available temporary workers.

Visa validity

The duration of the visa is limited to the employer's need for the temporary workers. The maximum authorized period is one year. However, the employer may extend the duration of the visa up to three years -- but with a very close watch from the immigration authorities.

Filing the I-129 Petition

In order to be considered as a nonimmigrant under the above classifications, the prospective employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once approved, the employer is sent a notice of approval, Form I-797.

Applying for the H-2B Visa

If the prospective worker is outside of the US, he must then apply for a visa with the US consulate.

The H-2B visa application includes:

  • DS-156, Application for Nonimmigrant Visa
  • DS-157 if male between the ages of 16 and 45)
    The necessary filing fees
  • Copy of Notice of Approval of H-2B Petition
  • Passport
  • One passport-style photo
  • Evidence of ties to the home country (family, property, current occupation, etc.) Like with any other nonimmigrant visa, the Consulate needs to see that each applicant has ties to the country so that he or she will return home after their work period ends.

If the prospective worker is already in the US and is changing from one nonimmigrant status to another, a visa is not required. However, if the worker leaves the US and wants to re-enter, s/he may need a visa.

Entry into the US

Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The officer at the port of entry has authority to deny admission, even if the applicant has a visa. Also, the officer at the port of entry, not the consular officer, determines the period for which the bearer of a temporary work visa is authorized to remain in the United States. At the port of entry, officials issue Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay, however, is made solely by the USCIS.

When to file

Petitions should be filed no more than six months before the proposed employment will begin. However, they should be submitted at least 45 days before the employment will begin, because the petition processing and visa issuance may not be completed before work is to begin.

Bringing family members

Spouses of H-2B visa holder or an unmarried child under 21 years of age of H-2B visa holder are issued an H-4 visa. They may remain in the US as long as the authorized stay of the H-2Avisa holder. H-4 visa holders are not permitted to work in the US.

Petitioning for several workers

It is possible, in some cases, for employers to file blanket petitions (that is, one petition for several individual employees).

H-2B Visa Frequently Asked Questions

Please click on the following link to if you have any questions regarding the H-2B visa and the requirements:

H-2B Visa FAQ.

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