U.S. employers in seasonal industries such as skiing, landscaping and roofing are frequently challenged with locating enough U.S. workers to meet their labor needs. The H-2B temporary work visa for seasonal workers is a good solution for employers to consider.
The H-2B visa is for skilled or unskilled seasonal and temporary non-agricultural workers. This visa is broad and can be given to a large variety of individuals in the manual labor, sports, tourism, and hospitality industries.
Eligibility to sponsor workers for an H-2B visa
To qualify as an H-2B employer, the following must be true:
- There is a shortage of U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available to perform this kind of temporary work.
- Hiring a foreign national will not affect the salary given to other U.S. workers.
- The labor provided by the foreign national will only be temporary.
How to apply for an H-2B visa
Employers should start preparing their H-2B paperwork approximately ten months before their date of need. The process for sponsoring an individual for an H-2B visa is largely bureaucratic and involves several steps with the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the U.S. Department of State.
There is an annual H-2B visa cap of 66,000 visas per year. The 66,000 visas are split into the first and second half of the fiscal year. For the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – Sept. 30), there are only 33,000 visas available nationwide and H-2B employers must enter a lottery as part of the visa application process. This year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) received a record number of applications in January 2020 for the second half of the fiscal year. Between January 2, 2020, and January 6, 2020, the DOL received approximately 5,677 H-2B applications requesting 99,362 worker positions for an April 1, 2020 employment start date. This is more than triple the number of available H-2B visas.
There is an element of luck that impacts whether an employer is selected in the H-2B visa lottery. However, there are several steps the company must take to ensure a chance of success. One small mistake or delay can easily disqualify an H-2B company from being selected in the lottery.