Updated on 15.10.2021

H-2B Visa - Quota for US Fiscal Year 2019 Reached

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the additional 30,000 H-2B visas made available for US fiscal year 2019 are also out of stock. Read here who can apply for H-2B visas.
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What are H-2B visas?

H-2B visas are intended for Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers. That is, this visa category allows US employers to employ seasonal workers and individuals without academic degrees under certain conditions. The employment opportunities are diverse - from truck drivers to production workers, a wide variety of work activities are conceivable. Only agricultural jobs are excluded from the H-2B visa, which is the official name of the visa. Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers already says - excluded.

Indeed, there is a special visa category for temporary work assignments in the agricultural sector: H-2A visas allow skilled or unskilled foreign workers to temporarily perform agricultural work (Temporary Agricultural Work) for a US employer in the USA.

What are the requirements for H-2B visas?

The H-2B visa, just like the H-1B visa, contains a classic work and residence permit for the USA. However, the H-2B visa allows only one very short-term, seasonal activity.

Labor Market Review

The entry requirements for the H-2B visa are very strict. The employer must, among other things, by Temporary Labor Certification prove that no other suitable worker can be found. In addition, as just mentioned, it must be proven that the work is of a short-term nature, e.g. due to a seasonal bottleneck, extraordinary event or major order.

H-2A and H-2B country list

Since January 2012, H-2B visas have been issued to nationals of certain countries. Currently, applicants from about 80 countries can apply for H-2B visas. Nationals from almost 85 countries can apply for H-2A visas. For example, the H-2B category has only been available to German applicants since 2016.

Until 18.01.2022, nationals of the following countries are eligible to apply for H-2A visa and / or H-2B visa (list in alphabetical order):

Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Germany, Dominican Republic (no H-2B eligibility), Ecuador, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Grenada, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Moldova (no H-2B eligibility), Monaco, Mongolia (no H-2A eligibility), Montenegro, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Northern Macedonia, Norway, Austria, East Timor, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay (no H-2B eligibility), Peru, Philippines (no H-2A eligibility), Poland, Portugal, Romania, Solomon Islands, San Marino, Sweden, SwitzerlandSerbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Czech Republic, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, Hungary, Uruguay, Vanuatu and United Kingdom.

This list is valid for one year starting Jan. 19, 2021, with a total of four countries having changes from the previous year, 2020.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reserves the right to remove or add countries from the list at any time. The Federal Register lists the current H-2A and H-2B country list.

Attention: As a rule, USCIS only approves applications for nationals of those countries that are also on the list. In exceptional cases, however, USCIS may also approve applications from citizens of non-listed countries if it determines that this is of particular interest to the United States.

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Apply for H-2B Visa

The application process for H-2A and H-2B visas is similar to the very involved process for H-1B Visa. The application is made in two steps:

  1. US employers must first obtain aPetition(I-129 form) with US immigration authorities and - at least for the H-2B - also file a temporaryLaboratory Certification at U.S. Department of Labor. The US employer must therefore prove that it was unable to find US nationals for the job offered.
  2. If the application is approved by US immigration authorities, foreign employees must apply for the H-2B visa as a final step in the consular process.

Since H-2B visas are limited in number per US fiscal year, H-2B applications may be filed beginning June 1 for the first six months (October 1 - March 31) and January 1 for the second six months (= April 1 - September 30).

Attention:U.S. immigration authorities have adopted temporary exemptions for workers:inside performing temporary services or work essential to the U.S. food supply chain in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Provided, That the H-2B Beneficiary is already in the USA and the petition is still pending with the USCIS (=pending), these persons can already be registered before official Approval start working. The temporary employment permit is valid for up to 60 days.

Validity and extension of H-2B visas

H-2B visas are only issued for one year maximum as they only entitle the holder to work for a very short period of time on a seasonal basis. Although there is the possibility in one-year increments to extend the H-2B visa to for a maximum of three years, however, these extension requests are examined very closely and are also frequently rejected.

Attention: The maximum visa extension to three years has been waived for H-2B holders:in who are essential to the US food supply chain to minimize the impact of coronavirus. The temporary changes to the previous law's provisions apply only to H-2B workers:ins who are already in the United States and have valid H-2B status. Affected H-2B workers:are thus allowed to remain in the United States beyond the maximum allowable stay of three years.

H-2B Quotensystem (H-2B Cap)

Ähnlich wie beim H-1B Visum unterliegt auch das H-2B Visum einer jährlichen zahlenmäßigen Begrenzung, dem H-2B Cap.

Die aktuelle Anzahl an H-2B Visa verteilt sich auf zwei H-2B Caps:

H-2B Cap | 1. Halbjahr | max. 33.000 | ab 01.06. eines Jahres | Arbeitsbeginn 01.10. - 31.03.

H-2B Cap | 2. Halbjahr | max. 33.000 | Arbeitsbeginn 01.04. - 30.09.

Aktuell stehen pro US-Steuerjahr (Fiscal Year) somit 66.000 H-2B Visa zur Verfügung, aufgeteilt in 33.000 Visa für ausländische Arbeitnehmer:innen mit einem Arbeitsbeginn ab dem 1. Oktober (1. Halbjahr) und 33.000 Visa für ausländische Arbeitnehmer:innen mit einem Arbeitsbeginn ab dem 1. April (2. Halbjahr).

Grundsätzlich erfolgt die Antragstellung für das erste Halbjahr ab dem 1. Juni eines Jahres und für das zweite Halbjahr ab dem 1. Januar des darauffolgenden Jahres.

Hinweis: Während nicht genutzte H-2B Visa des ersten Halbjahres dem zweiten Halbjahr desselben US-Steuerjahres zugerechnet werden, sind nicht genutzte H-2B Visa des zweiten Halbjahres nicht auf das nächste Fiscal Year übertragbar.

H-2A Visa sind zahlenmäßig nicht begrenzt.

Annual Application Round - H-2B Cap Season.

H-2B visa for fiscal year 2022

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has H-2B application round for the first half of US fiscal year 2022 closed. USCIS has already received enough petitions to meet the established cap on H-2B visas for the first half of U.S. fiscal year 2022.
September 30, 2021 was the deadline for receipt of new H-2B applications covered by the cap for a work start date before April 1, 2022.

All H-2B petitions received after September 30, 2021, that are subject to the cap and request an employment start date prior to April 1, 2022, will be denied and returned to the respective applicant:s.

Petitions for the second half of FY 2022 with a work start date on or after April 1, 2022, may not be resubmitted until January 1, 2022.

H-2B applications excluded from the quota

It should be noted that there are also H-2B applications that are exempt from the H-2B cap. For example, H-2B renewal applications will continue to be accepted by USCIS.

H-4 Visa for family members

Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible for derivative H-4 visas upon application for the same period as principal applicants.

Spouses and children can attend private and public educational institutions with the H-4 visa. However, spouses of H-2B visa holders cannot obtain their own Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with the H-4 visa. Therefore, employment is generally not permitted, not even for children.

For more information on the H-2B program, the USCIS provides information at available.

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Updated on 15.10.2021