Administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs permit US employers to bring foreign workers of different skills to work for a brief period in the United States.
Keep reading for a complete guide on the H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs.
What Are H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs? – The Essentials
Specific industries regularly need seasonal or temporary workers in certain parts of the year. In recent years, the lack of domestic workers who are able and willing to work has been a particular issue for many employers.
The H-2 visa category is a nonimmigrant classification divided into two subcategories – H-2A visas and H-2B visas. The main difference between these two categories is the applicability of each visa.
USCIS awards H-2A visas to foreign employees filing temporary or seasonal agricultural positions, while H-2B visas are for non-agricultural temporary positions. The non-agricultural segments with the most demand for foreign workers include trucking, construction, landscaping, painting, remodeling, and hospitality.
Temporary vs. Seasonal – Understanding the Concept
Temporary work happens when the employer needs employees to fill employment gaps for less than one year. As its name suggests, seasonal work is tied to a certain time of the year that requires labor levels above what is generally required.
Under H-2 visas, temporary employees may work for at least one year, while seasonal employees work during a specific season.
H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs – How US Employers Can Hire Foreign Workers?
If a US employer wishes to hire an H-2A or H-2B worker for temporary or seasonal positions, they must file Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) with USCIS. In the process, they must prove that:
- There are not sufficient domestic workers who are able, willing, qualified, or available to fill those specific positions
- The employment of H-2A or H-2B workers will not adversely impact the wages and working conditions of domestic workers in similar employment
The H-2A and H-2B visas involve a multi-agency effort to protect the rights of domestic and foreign workers.
Both the USCIS and the US Department of Labor (DOL) want to guarantee that the H-2 visa does not become a way for US employers to hire cheap foreign labor, adversely affecting the average US salary for temporary or seasonal work.
Please note that foreign workers under H-2A and H-2B visas must be treated fairly, with adequate working conditions and fair compensation.
H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs – Eligible Countries
As provided by USCIS, H-2A and H-2B petitions may only be approved for nationals of eligible countries.
The list of countries eligible to participate in the H-2 visa program is designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security with the Office of the Secretary of State. Different factors may lead the Secretary of Homeland Security to add or remove countries from the H-2 list.
The Department of Homeland Security publishes the annual list of H-2A and H-2B eligible countries in a Federal Register notice. Once published, the designation is valid for one year.