What is an H-2B visa?
An H-2B Visa is a non-immigrant work visa for temporary workers that are not in the agricultural sector. A US employer or agent who meets specific requirements relative to the visa will be able to employ a Canadian citizen to perform one-time jobs, seasonal work, peak-load work, or intermittent jobs. It is not a visa that you would look into if you were planning on moving to the US permanently.
An employer or agent that would like to sponsor you as a Canadian citizen for the H-2B visa will need to file form I-I29 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) on your behalf, prior to being able to apply for the visa yourself.
The United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) is only allowed to issue 66,000 H-2B visas every year unless the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor temporarily increase the limit for substantial reasons.
If you need assistance with the H-2B Visa, feel free to call us on +1 844 290 6312, or you can request a call back through our live chat feature.
Who is eligible for an H-2B Visa?
You may be eligible for the H-2B Visa if an employer permanently based in the US has offered you a temporary, fixed-term job. Your other requirements are as follows:
- You must have an official offer of employment letter from the US-based company
- You must meet the minimum qualifications, skills, and experience required for the nature of the job
- You are able to demonstrate that you will be returning to Canada before your H-2B Visa expires
- Your employer has filed Form I-129 to the US Immigration Bureau
How to prove your job is temporary
Your US employer is responsible for proving that your employment is intended for non-immigration purposes, and will only be for a short-term period. They must be able to prove that there are not enough US residents who are willing and able to achieve the jobs required, therefore needing to seek outside help. They will also need to show that employing workers on an H-2B visa, will not negatively impact the working conditions or wages of the already-employed. Other documents required may include the following:
- The job is a one-off and won’t be repeated
- The company have not previously employed workers to perform the job
- The company will not require workers to handle the job in the future
- The job is traditionally connected to a particular season of the year, either as a pattern or recurring events
- They are not claiming a seasonal need for a time that is unpredictable or subject to change
- They are not for claiming a seasonal need for vacation time for the regular full-time employees
Peak load need
- They have permanent employees in place regularly, and cannot meet demand due to a busier season
- They need to temporarily hire foreigners to supplement the permanent staff due to seasonal or short-term demand during a busier season
- The temporary employment will not become a regular and recurring role for the visa holder
- They need temporary workers occasionally to achieve the job
- They have not employed permanent employees to handle the job
What kind of jobs can you do with an H-2B Visa?
The H-2B Visa does not accommodate anyone involved with agricultural work such as farm labor or produce. If you are hoping to get work within this industry, you will need to apply for an H-2A Visa instead. Some of the suitable jobs for an H-2B visa include (but are not limited to) some of the following:
- Amusement and recreation attendants
- Coaches and scouts
- Construction labourers
- Food preparation workers
- Forest and conservation workers
- Housekeeping cleaners
- Landscaping workers
- Production workers
- Waiters and waitresses
How many H-2B Visas are issued?
The USCIS has a statutory limit on the amount of H-2B Visas that can be issued every fiscal year. In the first half of the fiscal year, October to March, they issue 33,000 of these visas to successful applicants. In the second half, April to September, another 33,00 visas are granted, totaling 66,000 for the year.
The US government can increase this limit at their discretion. For example, in 2021, the US Department of Homeland Security alongside the Department of Labor temporarily increased the number of successful applications to 88,000 on a ‘needs-must’ basis. If, however, the USCIS does not issue the capped amount of 66,000, the numbers do not carry over to the next fiscal year.
Once the 66,000 applications have been assigned, the USCIS will reject and return any more applications received for the H-2B Visa for that year. There are some applicants however that would be exempt from the cap, and these include workers in the following fields:
- Fish roe processors
- Fish roe technicians
- Supervisors of fish roe processing
- Those that perform services in the Northern Mariana Islands or Guam, dating from November 28th, 2009 – December 31st, 2029
How to apply for the H-2B Visa
The first step in the process of obtaining an H-2B Visa is for your US employer or agent (known as the petitioner) to apply for a temporary labor certification from the US Department of Labor (DOL). This step must be completed before the petitioner requests H-2B classification from USCIS.
An employer must register no more than 120 calendar days before the contract can begin with the temporary employee. During this time, they must also obtain a Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD), and file a job order and H-2B application to the Chicago National Processing Center.
Once the petitioner has received a valid temporary labor certification, they can now file Form I-129 with the USCIS. They may be required to send the original version of the temporary labor certification alongside Form I-129.
If the petitioner intends on employing more than one temporary non-agricultural worker for the same service, they can do so in the one petition, on the grounds that the number of H-2B workers does not exceed the number of positions available in the temporary labor certification.
Once the USCIS has approved the employer’s petition, you (as the employee) can now apply for an H-2B Visa with the US Department of State (DOS).
With an H-2B Visa, you can seek admission into the country with US Customs and Border Protection at any US airport, or port of entry.
What documents do you need for an H-2B Visa?
When the petitioner is ready to submit form I-129 alongside the original version of the temporary labor certification, there will be a list of other documents to include, such as the following:
A cover letter on the company’s official letterhead describing the following:
- The nature of the business
- Locations and mailing addresses that the employer uses
- An explanation as to why the employer needs temporary workers
- The qualifications of the proposed temporary staff
Documentation that proves why the job is temporary and:
- Proof that there are not enough qualified US citizens who are willing or able to work this particular role
- Proof that they will suffer irreparable harm (either economically or financially) if they do not hire any foreign workers
- Proof that they are abiding by all health and safety laws, and labor employment laws
The petitioner is required to make copies of all submitted forms and documents. Once approved by the USCIS, they will be given a notice of approval (Form I-797). A copy of Form I-797 must be included with your H-2B Visa application, alongside other documents such as:
- A completed online non-immigrant visa application (Form DS-160)
- A completed Form DS-157 if the applicant is a male between aged 16-45
- A valid passport
- A passport photograph
- Significant proof that you will be returning to Canada when your H-2B Visa expires
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Eligible dependents that can join you in the US under an H-2B Visa are unmarried children under the age of 21, your spouse, or your civil partner. These dependents will need to complete an H4 Visa application.
An H4 Visa grants entry for your dependents into the US, so long as they are authorized. However, they are not able to work or apply for a work visa when they are under an H4 Visa. They can apply for this during the same time as you apply for your H-2B Visa.
Regardless of the type of visa you select for your circumstances, the best step is to get in touch with the team at Total Law, so you know that you are guaranteed the right path, and stand for a much higher success rate for your immigration application. You can contact us seven days a week, either on the phone or by using the online chat function to speak with one of our client care agents.
The employer must start the petition at least 60 days in advance of employment commencing, but no more than 120 days in advance. They can request premium processing at a further cost to them by filling out Form I-907.
Once you have applied for the H2B Visa as an employee, it can take between 60-120 days to be processed.
The employer will be required to pay a base petition fee of $460 when submitting Form I-129. Depending on the organization, there may be other fees applicable, including a $150 fraud prevention and detection fee. To request premium processing, the employer will pay a fee of $1,500.
As the applicant, you will pay $190 as the visa application fee.