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What is the H2B Visa?

The H2B Visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers for temporary non-agricultural work. This can be a one-time job, seasonal job, intermittent, or peak load. We'll explain these designations below.

It’s the direct contrast with the H-2A visa, which is for temporary workers in the agricultural sector. At the same time, it’s different from temporary employment in the non-agricultural sector.

Non-agricultural seasonal workers, both skilled and unskilled, are eligible to apply for the US H2B visa. Business trainers, performers, athletes, camp counsellors, ski instructors, and home attendants for terminally ill patients are all typical eligible candidates for this visa.

You must first have a job offer for a position for which there is a scarcity of U.S. workers willing or able to fill it. With an H2B visa, you can bring your eligible immediate relatives to the United States.

The U.S. Congress set a numerical maximum of 66,000 H2B visas per fiscal year. 33,000 commencing in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 – March 31) and 33,000 for employment commencing in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – September 30).

Because this category receives a high volume of applications, not all eligible applicants get a visa in the year they apply.

Family

With the H2B visa, your spouse and children under the age of 21 can accompany you to the United States. They’ll have to apply for the H4 visa. With the H4 visa, they can travel with you to the U.S. or join you later.

However, they cannot enter the U.S. before you or stay after you leave. Also, your dependents cannot work in the U.S. under the H4 visa. Some exceptions to work are available for H4 dependents of H1 visas, but there’s none for H2B dependents.

The only way to work is if they change their visa status to a different one which can be difficult unless the job offer falls under the H2 visa class as well. Your family can seek an extension of their H4 visa if the USCIS approves your H2B visa application.

FAQ

Do H2B workers pay taxes?
Yes, as an H2B worker, your wages are subject to the U.S. federal income task. However, H2B workers don’t have to pay for social security and Medicare taxes.

What are the benefits of the H2B visa?
With the H2B visa, you can:

- Work in the United States and receive all employee benefits.
- Bring your dependents to the United States with you.
- Travel freely in and out of the United States so long as the visa is valid.
- Get new jobs with proof of job offer and approved petition

Is there a Grace Period for H2B workers?

The H2B visa usually has a 10-day grace period at the end of your visa validity. You must be prepared to depart the U.S. on or before the end of the grace period.

 

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H2B Visa Validity

The H2B visa is usually valid for one year, and the expiry date will be in the petition approval and also on your visa. You have the option of extending your maximum stay in one-year increments for a maximum total of three years.

H2B visa extension is only applicable in “extraordinary circumstances”. Extraordinary circumstances imply factors not normally incident to or foreseeable during an administrative proceeding.

Your employer must also extend the Labor Certification or apply for a new one every time you apply to extend your stay. Following the completion of the 3 years stay, you must depart the United States.

If you still have an H2B job offer in the U.S., you can reapply for the visa after spending three consecutive months outside the U.S.

It is also possible for your employment offer to be terminated before the end date of your period of stay. In such a situation, you must notify USCIS, after which you’ll have to depart the U.S.

H2B Visa Processing Time

In general, your H2B Visa sponsor can file the petition 60 days before the employment start date, but no more than 120 days.

However, you may not get the visa the same year you apply for it due to the high application volume. H2B visa processing involves consecutive steps such that each step is dependent on the completion of the previous step.

If your employer wants an expedited process, they can use the premium processing service and receive a decision on the petition within 15 days. This service will cost an additional $2,500.

You cannot apply for premium processing if the annual visa cap has been met. Therefore, it’s important to confirm beforehand.

Unlike other service fees, the USCIS can refund the premium processing fee if they cannot complete the processing within 15 days.

H2B Visa Fees

For the H2B visa application, you’ll have to pay the following fees:

Petition filing fee: $460 
Premium Processing Fee: $2,500 (if required)
Visa filing fee: $160

Typically, employers cover the cost of the petition application (and the premium processing fee if they are using the service).

Other fees may also apply, such as the Visa Issuance Fee if your application is approved. However, this will depend on your home country.

Job Position Eligibility Criteria

The H2B Visa Program allows you to work in a variety of fields in the United States. However, to qualify as a temporary job position, it must be any of the following:

- Seasonal need: These are jobs that are needed during a specific season. These types of jobs are recurring, usually annually. However, the job duration cannot change and mustn’t be during the vacation period of permanent U.S. workers.
- Intermittent need: These are jobs without sufficient full-time workers. Hence, the employer needs temporary part-time workers to assist.
- Peak-load need: These are open job positions during very busy times, and an employer needs additional workers.
- One-time need: These are jobs that last for a very short period and just for a one-time period.

H2B Visa Requirements

To apply for the H2B visa, you need a sponsor in the United States. You must have a temporary job offer from your sponsor. The job offer must not be in agricultural or associated industries.

In addition, your sponsor (employer) must show that there aren’t enough US-based workers to fill the job positions. In summary, you must meet the following requirements to be eligible for application:

- You must be a citizen of one of the eligible countries as designated by the Secretary of State for the H2B Visa Program.
- Your sponsor (employer) must be US-based with labor certification.
- You must have the basic qualifications for the non-agricultural job you want to do.
- There must be no qualifying and willing U.S. workers to fill the position.
- You must have ties to your home country to show that you will return home when your visa expires.

H-2B Job Examples

These are the types of roles that fit into the H-2B visa occupation list, ordered by popularity:

- Landscaping and groundskeeping workers 
- Forest and conservation workers 
- Amusement and recreation attendants 
- Maids and housekeeping cleaners 
- Meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers
- Construction laborers 
- Coaches and scouts 
- Waiters and waitresses 
- Nonfarm animal caretakers 
- Fishers and related fishing workers 
- Helpers—production workers 
- Cooks, restaurant 
- Packers and packagers, hand 
- Food preparation workers
- Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartenders

H-2B Non-Agricultural Workers

You can become an H2B visa holder if you have a job offer for a temporary non-agricultural role from a US-based employer.

What is the H2B Visa?
Job Examples
Requirements
Eligibility Criteria
Costs
Processing Time
Validity
Family
FAQ