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H-2B Visa Requirements and Processing Times

If you are looking to come to work in the US on a temporary basis, The H-2B visa may just be the perfect work visa for you. Each year the H-2B allows up to 66,000 temporary workers to come to the US to take up temporary, non-agricultural work. Popular in several industries that are seasonal by nature, the visa is very popular. If you are looking to take on a seasonal or temporary job in the US, the H-2B visa is going to be one to look into. In this article, we will take a deep dive into the visa. We’ll look at who it is aimed at, how to get one and compare it to other popular options.

What Is The H-2B Visa?

The H-2B visa is one of many work-based visas available to those looking to take up employment in the US. Due to the nature of the visa, it is primarily designed for industries and jobs that are seasonal or temporary by nature. For instance, one popular use of the visa is in the hospitality industry. Many jobs in this sector are influenced by holiday seasons which means they only last for a few months. This visa allows a sizeable amount of flexibility for both employers and those who wish to travel to the US to work by offering a stay of up to 1 year, which can be extended depending on circumstances. You can even switch employers during your stay.

As the visa is short term in nature, it may not be suitable for those who wish to stay in the US for an extended period. With an initial maximum period of 1 year, the visa really is aimed at those who wish to stay in the US temporarily. While the initial period is 1 year, the visa can be extended up to a maximum of 3 years. This allows significant flexibility if a job becomes longer term than was originally envisioned.

What Are The Differences Between An H-1B Visa And An H-2B Visa

Two of the most commonly selected work-based visas in the US are the H-1B and the H-2B. Though their names make them sound like they may be similar, they are worlds apart. The H-1B visa is designed for specialist staff who are looking to move to the US to take a position long-term. The H-1B visa is also known as a “dual intent” visa which means that the holder will not need to make plans to return to their country of origin and may be entitled to apply for a Green Card to cement their stay in the US.

The H-2B visa is not a “dual intent” visa. The visa is provided with the sole intention of the holder returning to their country of origin (or moving to a third country) at the end of their visa. H-2B visa holders are not entitled to apply for a Green Card as a result of their visa (though they may gain entitlement in other ways). If you are looking to make the US your new home, the H-1B is the way to go. If you are not, then the H-2B visa may be more appropriate to your needs.

How Do I Apply For A H-2B Visa?

To apply for an H-2B visa, the intended employer must be offering a position that is temporary in nature. As well as this, the role will also need to meet the following criteria:

  • There are no unemployed US workers willing or able to do the work. This is achieved using the Chicago National Processing Center who administer the temporary labor certification process. The process ensures that a thorough recruitment campaign has been carried out to ensure that no US workers are exempt from the role
  • By employing a worker on an H-2B visa, US workers will not have their pay or conditions negatively affected. So employers cannot use the visa to undercut US wages

For an applicant to be eligible to apply for an H-2B visa, the employer will need to submit the following petitions:

  • A temporary labor certification application to DOL
  • Form I-129 to USCIS

Once the employer’s I-129 petition is approved, the foreign migrant will then apply for an H-2B visa via their local consulate/embassy. This application will be subject to the annual 66,000 H-2B visa cap. If the cap has already been reached, then only those who are exempt from H-2B cap or get a place from the lottery will have their applications considered. Like the H-1B visa, there is a lottery system in place for applications that don’t get one of the 66,000 places available. This is completed randomly by computer and you will be informed if you are successful

How Long Does It Take To Process A H-2B Visa Application?

Due to the large numbers of applications, H-2B visa applications can take between 4 and 6 months to be processed. While this may seem lengthy, it is in line with the processing times of many other US work-based visas. Your employer will need to file the petitions required anywhere between 60 and 120 days of your intended start date. This gives time for the application to be considered and processed.

Due to the length of time that the process takes, it is best to begin your search several months before you intend to move to the US. You will need to locate a sponsor and meet their requirements before the visa process even begins.

If you want to discuss your options for moving to the US to work, get in touch, and speak to a member of our team of immigration solicitors. We are experts in helping people to relocate to the US and offer a number of services that can help to maximise your chances of success.

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