Requirements and how to apply for an H-2B work visa in the United States

(CNN Spanish) – Every year, the United States grants thousands of H-2 visas to experienced and inexperienced workers (non-professionals 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 US 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 an additional 35,000 H-2B visas for temporary non-agricultural workers for the first half of fiscal year 2022. These additional visas can be applied for by employers. Americans from April 1, 2022.

The countries whose citizens 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 from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

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

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

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

READ: The shortage of workers in the United States is real and is getting worse every day, according to the CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce.

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

But what is the process to apply for this visa and who qualifies? Here are the steps to get a H-2B visa.

Employer Requirements

The petitioner or employer must show that there are not enough US workers who are “able, willing, available, and qualified to perform the temporary work.”

Employing workers under the H-2B visa must not adversely affect US workers employed in similar tasks, and the work of the candidate workers must be of a temporary nature. The USCIS considers temporary if a job:

  • Occurs only once: a petitioner argues that the need is one-time only and demonstrates that they have 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’s seasonal: the service or job for which you are seeking workers is related to an event or pattern of events of a recurring nature.

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

  1. The petitioner presents an application Certification of Temporary Employment for Foreign Labor from the DOL.
  2. The petitioner must submit a Form I-129 before USCIS.
  3. Candidate workers outside the US must apply for the H-2B visa at a US embassy or consulate abroad and then apply for admission at a port of entry. To the appointment they must bring a valid passport, a valid petition number (found in the job offer) and proof of payment of the visa application of US$ 190.

How long can I work in the US on an H2-B visa?

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

The H-2B visa is granted for a period of one year, although it can be requested for two extensions of up to one year each. The extension request must be submitted before its expiration date and the workers will be able to remain in the US during the extension process.

Workers who receive the extension do not have to process a new visa, as long as they do not leave the US, and if they return to their country of origin, they must apply for a new visa before re-entering the North American country.

Can I bring my family to the US?

Yes. An H-2B worker can bring their spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 under the H-4 classification. However, family members are not eligible to work in the US.

Countries Eligible for H-2B Visas

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

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Chili
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecuador
  • The Savior
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Uruguay
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editor’s note: This note was originally published in July 2021 and updated in May 2022.

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