H-2B temporary working visa to the US: Requirements, documents and how to apply

The work permits are aimed at helping American employers who face irreparable harm if they cannot find additional workers, and are available to citizens of 83 countries

Julieta Sanguino
Visa Estados Unidos H-2B
A total of 20,000 additional H-2B visas are being made available for those wanting to work in the US.Koldertsov ALEX (Getty Images)

The United States Department of Homeland Security announced on January 27 that 20,000 additional H-2B visas will be available for temporary non-agricultural workers during the first half of 2022, and became available to employers on January 28. The DHS is thus raising the annual limit set by Congress, which is currently 66,000 workers per year.

The visas are aimed at helping US employers that face irreparable harm if they cannot get additional workers on or before March 31, 2022, the departments of Homeland Security and Labor said in a statement reported by Reuters.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that the US government is “providing employers with the resources and support needed to sustain their businesses while expanding lawful pathways to the United States.”

Of these visas, 13,500 will be for returning workers who already had such a visa or were granted H-2B status at some point during the last three fiscal years. The rest of the visas will be for citizens of Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Here are the details and the requirements for obtaining the H-2B visa.

How do you apply for the H-2B visa?

The most important thing is for the employer to show that there are not enough US workers who are willing, qualified and available to carry out the job, that the contract will be temporary, that US workers will not be affected, and that the invitation will only be made once and per season.

The worker must have a job offer in the United States, check the skills for the job and commit to returning to their country of origin before the visa expires. What’s more, they must pay a fee to request the visa.

If the citizen is already legally in the United States, the employer can request that their visa be changed to the H2-B. If they are outside of the country, they should request the visa in the consulate of their country of origin.

Documents that can be requested at your consulate appointment

Valid passport for the applicant, children or spouse that is accompanying them, receipt for the payment of the application fee, the receipt number for the approved request and a printed version of the form that must be completed online. It is also possible that a request is made for a document that proves the applicant’s intention to leave the United States once their H2-B status expires (this could be a rental contract or work letter).

How long can people work in the United States with the H2-B visa?

This visa is in force for three years and once this period is over, the beneficiary must leave the country for an uninterrupted three-month period and later apply for the visa once more. What’s more, they can take advantage of two extensions of up to a year each, which must be presented before the visa expires.

Which countries are taking part in the H-2B program?

In total, 83 countries can make use of this kind of visa, including the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Germany. In Latin America, these countries include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic and Uruguay. Spanish citizens are also eligible.

If a country is not on the list, a citizen can make a request for its approval with the DHS.

What happens with family members of beneficiaries of the program?

Spouses and single children aged under 21 can enter with the classification of nonimmigrant and will not be able to seek work.

More information

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