As the summer season approaches, it is a good idea to do a brief review of the H2B seasonal/temporary visa that some foreign nationals use to work in the United States. While green card applications, naturalization, and even the H1B visa are covered heavily in the news media when it comes to immigration, the H2B visa is talked about less often, and deserves a good review for those who might be interested in applying for this category or understanding where you might be able to work in the U.S. with this type of visa.
The best way to define an H2B visa (and this is exactly what you will find if you go onto the USCIS website as well) is that the H2B visa is a “temporary, non-immigrant visa” used for the sole purpose of employing foreign nationals with the expectation that they will return home after their visa and employment ends. The use of the word temporary here refers to seasonal employment, however not in the field of agriculture. Some examples of H2B visa holders and where they work in the U.S. include the following:
- Ski instructors or resort workers in the U.S. for a full season
- Camp counselors
- Business trainers
- Home attendants for the elderly
- Landscaping, groundskeeping, and construction
- Restaurant industry
As you can see from the list there is quite a bit of variability for where H2B workers reside and work once they are admitted into the country. The first step is really to decide what you are passionate about, or where you might be a competitive applicant for such a visa. For example, if you have been skiing or snowboarding for most of your life and want to apply to be a ski instructor in the U.S., you should contact/do some research to see which mountains in the U.S. have previously hired foreign nationals on an H2B visa. Likewise, if you have experience working in construction, you should try and find an employer who is reliable and will be able to go through the USCIS petition process.
Secondly, the H2B program is only open to foreign nationals from certain countries. Every year, the U.S. government updates this list on the federal register. To see if you would be eligible for the H2B visa in 2021, please the following link: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/01/18/2019-00074/identification-of-foreign-countries-whose-nationals-are-eligible-to-participate-in-the-h-2a-and-h-2b
If the USCIS approves your prospective employers I-129 (Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker), you will be headed to the last step of the application process which is consular processing and a visa interview. In order to be successful at your visa appointment, be sure to bring the following documents:
- Passport and passport sized photographs
- I-797 Receipt in regards to your approved non-immigrant petition
- Filing fees associated with State Department
- Completed DS-156
- Proof that your lease/apartment in the U.S. will not extend past the expiration date of your H2B Visa (*Depending on the consulate)
This last step in regards to an apartment might be difficult for some applicants. If you haven’t signed a lease before your visa interview, you’ll need to provide other evidence that you plan on leaving the U.S. after your H2B is set to expire.
Finally, H2B applicants should check the USCIS Online Processing Times page to see how long their non-immigrant petition will take. The link is available here: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/