If you are a foreign national seeking to work in the U.S., there are multiple work visas potentially available to you -– among them, the H-2B visa for skilled or unskilled foreign workers in temporary or seasonal nonagricultural occupations. In this article, we focus on the privileges, limitations, and complications that come with qualifying for an H-2B visa.
H-2B classification is available for a foreign worker coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform temporary services/labor for a U.S. employer. The temporary services/labor may not be agricultural services. As broad as that definition might sound, the realities of who receives this visa are far narrower.
Realize at the outset that certain workers, even if they intend to work only temporarily, cannot qualify for H-2B visas because of the category of industry in which they work. For example, foreign medical graduates may not perform professional medical services pursuant to H-2B status, nor may agricultural workers perform labor in H-2B status.
Although the regulations governing H-2B visas do not otherwise limit the types of work H-2B nonimmigrants may engage in, in practice H-2B visas are typically issued to seasonal hotel workers, ski resort workers, summer camp employees, construction workers, and others who are needed to fulfill “seasonal,” “peak-load,” or “intermittent” labor needs.
The reason for this small sample of workers is largely due to the H-2B’s “double temporariness” requirement: Not only must the employment be temporary, but the actual need for the employment must also be temporary. It is difficult to demonstrate the temporariness need for the majority of workers, such as restaurant workers, IT personnel, accountants, and so forth, since the U.S. constantly requires these workers. Conversely, it's easier to show that the need for employees such as ski instructors is only temporary –- during the winter, or ski season.
Also realize that only nationals from certain countries may be admitted to the U.S. in H-2B status. Before beginning the application process, ensure that you are a national of one of the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Nauru, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Vanuatu.
Here are some key features of the H-2B visa.
The following are a few of the most common complications for foreign workers seeking H-2B status.
If you decide to apply for an H-2B visa, see H-2B Work Visa Requirements, Fees, and Application Process.