H-2B temporary work visa in the US: Requirements, documents and how to apply for it

This permit allows a foreign national to work in the United States on a temporary basis in non-agricultural jobs

Visa Estados Unidos H-2B
An American flag on a building in Manhattan, New York.Koldertsov ALEX (Getty Images)

The H-2B visa is one of the documents a foreign national may apply for to work in the United States legally. While the H-2A is one of the most common permits, allowing U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals to fill temporary positions in agriculture, construction, forestry and other industries, the H-2B offers similar permission but for non-agricultural employment in industries such as: hospitality, cruise ships, construction, resorts, theme parks, golf courses, retail stores, bars, and restaurants, among others.

The U.S. Congress has established a cap on the number of people who can work within the country on an H-2B visa. Currently, that number is 66,000 persons per fiscal year, with 33,000 workers starting work during the first half of the fiscal year and 33,000 starting in the second half.

Employers must demonstrate that the need for the prospective worker’s services is temporary, which is considered so in the following cases:

Learn about the details and requirements to obtain the H-2B visa.

How to apply for the H-2B visa?

First, an employer must file an application for a labor certification with the U.S. Department of Labor. Such certification confirms that there are not enough U.S. workers who are willing, qualified and available to perform the work, and that hiring foreign workers will not affect the wages or working conditions of other similarly employed U.S. employees.

Once the labor certification is granted by the Department of Labor, the applicant must file Form I-129 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

After USCIS approves the form, workers outside the United States may apply for an H-2B with the Department of State at a U.S. embassy or consulate in another country, and then apply for admission to the country with the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Information Center at a U.S. point of entry. Forms DS-160, DS-156 and DS-157 must also be completed. It is recommended to have your passport, a photograph for the document, your travel itinerary and travel information for the past few years, as well as employment and educational information.

In order for a foreign national to apply for an H-2B visa, they would first have to receive a job offer from a U.S.-based employer that is qualified to hire nonmigrants. Likewise, they must have the skills the employer is looking for, in addition to being from an eligible country and intending to leave the U.S. once the permit expires.

If the citizen is already lawfully present in the United States, the employer may request that the visa be changed to H2-B. If out of the country, they must apply for the visa at the consulate of the country of origin.

How long is it valid for?

This visa is valid for three years; therefore, once this time has elapsed, the beneficiary must leave the country for three months without interruption and then apply for this visa again. In addition, you can make use of two extensions of up to one year each, which must be presented before their expiration date.

Can the person bring their family?

Under this document, spouses and children under the age of 21 may apply to enter the country under the H-4 non-immigrant classification.

Documents you may be asked to provide at your consulate appointment

Valid passport of the applicant, children and accompanying spouse, receipt of payment of the application fee, the approved petition receipt number, and the printout of the form to be completed online. You may also be asked to provide proof of intent to leave the U.S. after the H2-B status expires (this could be a deed, lease, or letter of employment).

Which countries participate in the H-2B program?

In the Americas, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic, and Uruguay participate. Spanish citizens are also eligible.

If a country is not on the list, the citizen may petition to request approval from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security has a list of eligible countries on its official website, which is updated annually.

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