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

With many of the immigration programs in the U.S. in a state of flux or uncertainty, could there be business implications related to various worker visa programs.

Unlike the H1B Visa often discussed during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, H2B Visas are those intended for non-agricultural workers coming to the U.S. for temporary employment. So the program could potentially have an impact on a variety of businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry.

If you’re unfamiliar with the program, or want to learn more about how any of the potential changes to H2B Visas could impact your business, read on for a more in-depth look at the program.

What is an H2B Visa?

H2B Visas are intended for temporary workers who do not work in the agriculture industry. To qualify, businesses must have a need for temporary employees and be able to show that there aren’t enough U.S. workers who are willing and able to fill the need.

Businesses also need to be able to show that the positions they’re filling are temporary in nature. This means that the job needs to fit into one of the following four categories:

  • Recurring seasonal need, meaning that the 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, meaning the business has work that isn’t covered by full-time staff and occasionally needs extra help from temporary employees,
  • Peak-load need, meaning the business has busy periods where the workload exceeds what they’re able to handle with just their full-time staff,
  • One-time occurrence, meaning the business has just one instance where temporary workers are needed.

There is also a cap on the number of H2B Visas awarded each year. The U.S. issues 66,000 of these visas each year, usually with half reserved for the first six months of each fiscal year and the other half reserved for the final six months.

What Types of Employees Do H2B Visas Cover?

Essentially, the H2B Visa program is meant for businesses that hire seasonal or peak-season employees.

According to Workpermit.com, an online resource for those seeking information about various Visa programs, “From ski resort workers in Colorado to amusement park employees in Florida, 66,000 temporary workers come to the US every year on H2B visas. The H2B allows US employers to hire migrant workers to fill temporary non-agricultural roles in the US.”

So businesses like amusement parks that need extra staff during summer or ski resorts that need help during the winter months are most likely to use this program. Other businesses that could potentially use this program might include golf courses, cruise lines, resorts, seasonal recreational facilities and other tourism based businesses.