Across the country, the number of US workers willing or available to occupy temporary jobs in different business segments is not sufficient to satisfy the existing demand. The H-2B program provides an efficient solution for US non-agricultural employers who struggle with temporary or seasonal employment gaps.
Is it possible to change from one US employer to another under H-2B nonimmigrant status? Keep reading to find out.
H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker Visa – Understanding the Concept
Prospective foreign workers cannot self-petition for H-2B visas. Rather, a US employer or authorized agent must file Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
To qualify for H-2B nonimmigrant classification, petitioners must demonstrate that:
- Not sufficient US workers are able, willing, qualified, and available to fill the existing employment gap
- The employment of foreign workers will not negatively affect the wages and working conditions of US workers in similar employment
- The need for the services or labor provided by foreign workers is strictly temporary (regardless of whether the underlying job can be described as temporary)
Under USCIS regulations, a US employer’s need is considered temporary if it is:
- A one-time occurrence
- An intermittent need
- A peak-load need, or
- A seasonal need
Only nationals from eligible H-2B countries can participate in the program. The current statutory annual limit (cap) for the H-2B visa program is 66,000 visas per fiscal year.
The total number of visas is divided into two categories – 33,000 visas for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 – March 31) and 33,000 visas for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – September 30).
If there are unused numbers from the first half of the fiscal year available for prospective H-2B employers during the second half of the fiscal year, these numbers are available for new applications. Please note that this logic does not apply to unused numbers from one fiscal year to the next.
Can You Change Employer on H-2B Visa? – Taking a Closer Look
Many H-2B visa holders often question whether it is possible to change employers while maintaining the same status. The key element is the validity of the H-2B visa depends on the worker’s continued employment with his or her first employment.
One of the working conditions to remain under H-2B status is maintaining an employment relationship with the original sponsor of the visa. However, there are feasible alternatives to change from one employer to another in specific situations.
The first step is to secure a new H-2B employer willing to sponsor you. Once the job offer is secured, the next step is to request the employer for an updated Foreign Labor Certification Status.
With the updated status, the new sponsor is authorized by the US Department of Labor (DOL) to hire non-permanent workers. Similar to the original application process, the new employer must submit a petition to USCIS requesting your admission as an H-2B worker.
Besides specific exceptions, H-2B visa holders changing from one employer to another cannot begin their activities in the new employment until USCIS approves the employer’s petition.