The H‑2B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows participating employers to sponsor foreign nationals to fill non-agricultural jobs for a temporary period.
Which industries use H-2B visas?
H-2B workers are not limited to a specific occupation, but they cannot perform agricultural labor (e.g. planting, cultivating and harvesting). Over the years, the visa has been used to admit temporary workers to perform a variety of jobs.
According to DOL labor certification data, the top H-2B occupation in recent years has been landscaping and groundskeeping workers. Other top occupations include maids and housekeeping cleaners, forest and conservation workers, cooks, and restaurant staff (including waiters and waitresses), amusement and recreation attendants, and construction laborers. You can find a list of industries with a high prevalence of H-2B workers here.
What are the benefits of H-2B visas?
The H-2B program is designed to help employers fill labor shortages when there are no available American workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to perform the temporary work. This is particularly important for landscaping and groundskeeping jobs for two reasons. Firstly, it is a seasonal industry. Secondly, America has lost an entire generation of craft workers, leaving a void in the available domestic workforce. There has been a sharp rise in Americans graduating from high school and attending college instead of vocational or trade schools, with a corresponding decline in apprenticeships with craft artisans like landscape managers, architects and horticulturalists. Young Americans prefer to work at local coffee shops or in retail—leaving our trade industries with large labor shortages.
The H-2B visa program provides an opportunity for foreign workers to work legally in the U.S. and earn higher wages than they would in their home countries. Most temporary workers have no interest in becoming U.S. citizens, and instead seek H-2B jobs to save enough to return home permanently and live comfortably in their country of origin with their families.
Why do I need an attorney to apply for H-2B visas?
While it’s not necessary to have legal representation to apply for H-2B visas, it is incredibly helpful to use an attorney during the process for several reasons.
The visa application process involves navigating a complex bureaucratic network, beginning with substantive reviews by the Department of Labor (DOL) and moving through the State Workforce Agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the State Department. The preparation to apply and submit an H-2B petition typically takes several weeks, if not several months. Once submitted, visa applications are subject to review processes and can easily be sent back for correction and reapplication if they have deficiencies.
Beyond the application process itself, there are strategic considerations to be mindful of:
- Visa petition review is based on a lottery system (meaning visas are reviewed and issued at random).
- Only workers from certain countries are eligible to apply for H-2B visas.
- You need to keep abreast of when additional H-2B visas are released!
Many employers cannot or do not use the program because the process is too long and complex. Our immigration attorneys at KJ Partners are seasoned in the H-2B visa application process and are familiar with the nuances of petitioning for seasonal workers. We also represent landscapers in audits and investigations, new corporate formations, visa extensions, visa transfers, and permanent residency for their temporary workers.
Schedule a consultation with one of our immigration experts today to learn more about H-2B eligibility, the visa application process, and our strategic approach to ensuring consistent access to H-2B visas.