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What is an H2B Visa and How is it Different Than an H1B Visa?

The H-2B program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs- for example, seasonal workers, like those at an amusement park, summer resort areas, construction workers, landscapers, cruise ship workers, etc.


To qualify, U.S. employers or agents must have a need for temporary employees and be able to demonstrate that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are willing and able to fill that need. Additionally, the proffered job needs to fit into one of the following four (4) categories:

  • Seasonal need – Business has a busy season or period each year where they employ more workers than they do throughout the rest of the year.
  • Intermittent need – Business has work that isn’t covered by full-time staff and occasionally needs extra help from temporary employees.
  • Peak-load need – Business has busy periods where the workload exceeds what they’re able to handle with just their full-time staff,
  • One-time occurrence – Business has just one instance where temporary workers are needed.

Similar to H-1B visas, there is an annual cap on the number of H-2B visas awarded to nonimmigrants each year. The U.S. issues 66,000 H-2B visas each year; 33,000 H-2B visas for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (Oct. 1 – Mar. 31) and 33,000 H-2B visas for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (Apr. 1 – Sept. 30).

Unlike H-1B visas, H-2B visas are available for skilled and unskilled workers. There is no requirement that the proffered position be reserved solely for foreign nationals with a college degree or equivalent, as there is for the H-1B visa program. Businesses do, however, need to be able to demonstrate or explain the need to hire foreign nationals as opposed to U.S. workers. If there is no shortage of U.S. workers who are willing and able to do the job, businesses may not be able to recruit foreign nationals under the H-2B visa program.

On December 12, 2018, USCIS announced that it reached the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the first half of fiscal year (FY) 2019, meaning the number of beneficiaries USCIS received H-2B petitions for surpassed the total number of H-2B visas available for the first half of FY 2019. USCIS will continue to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap.

If you have questions about the H-2B visa program or would like to initiate a petition, please contact Atallah Law Group, LLC at (978) 682-2220 or by email to catallah@atallahlawgroup.com