If you're an employer in the U.S., you might find yourself struggling to hire U.S. workers for some of your temporary positions. When recruitment efforts don't produce qualified candidates able and willing to do the job you're looking to fill, you could supplement your workforce through the H-2B visa program. The program enables you to recruit and retain foreign nationals for certain temporary roles at your company. To be eligible for the program, the position you are hiring for must meet regulatory criteria, and you must select workers from approved countries.
What Is the H-2B Program?
The H-2B program is a visa program allowing U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals to fill temporary jobs for which they can't find qualified U.S. workers.
The H-2B program applies to non-agriculture positions in a wide range of industries, including, but not limited to:
- Food Service, and
To be eligible for the H-2B program, U.S. employers must demonstrate that they have made a good-faith effort to recruit U.S. workers for the position and that not enough qualified U.S. workers are available to fill it. If approved, U.S. employers can sponsor foreign national employees for H-2B visas to come to the United States to work temporarily for up to one year, depending on the need.
How Does the Process of Applying for the H-2B Program Work?
The H-2B program is designed to help U.S. businesses meet their temporary need for nonagricultural workers. To petition for an H-2B visa, your business must first establish that not enough qualified U.S. workers are able and willing to do the job. You must also show that hiring a foreign national will not negatively impact U.S. workers' wages.
Foreign nationals approved for the H-2B Visa will fill temporary positions.
Temporary positions are categorized as those for which the need is:
- A one-time occurrence,
- Needed for peak-load, or
- Intermittent in nature.
The process of applying for the H-2B program can take 4 to 5 months. You must first obtain a temporary labor conditions attestation (LCA) from the Department of Labor. Once the LCA is issued, you must carry out a recruitment to demonstrate that you have reasonably tried to hire U.S. workers.
After you get your temporary LCA, you can submit a nonimmigrant visa petition to the USCIS. The I-129 petition must be filed during a specified filing window. If it is approved, the prospective worker can apply for an H-2B visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy.
Hired temporary workers can remain in the U.S. for the amount of time indicated on the temporary labor certificate. Their stay can be extended in increments of up to 1-year, with a maximum of 3 years.
Congress limits the number of H-2B visas issued per fiscal year. Currently, the cap is 66,000, with 33,000 foreign nationals able to start employment in the first half of the year and 33,000 in the second half.
What Are the Costs of Obtaining an H-2B Visa?
The costs associated with the H-2B program vary. You must pay a filing fee when submitting the nonimmigrant visa petition. In addition to any expenses relating to obtaining the LCA, the costs may include travel reimbursement after the worker has completed at least 50% of the contract and reasonable travel costs home once the individual's temporary employment is done.
Additionally, while the individual is in your employ, you must pay them the prevailing wage for the work that they are doing.
Have an Attorney Help with the Process
If you are looking for a way to temporarily supplement your workforce with talented individuals from other countries, the H-2B program may be a viable option for you. Applying for the appropriate certifications and preparing your nonimmigrant visa petition can be complex. If you need help navigating the process, reach out to an immigration lawyer for assistance.
At The Gaston Law Firm, P.A., we have experience helping businesses in South Florida sponsor temporary workers. Schedule a consultation by contacting us at (888) 388-6859 today.