The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has specific combinations of numbers and letters to designate different visa options. While the H-1B and H-2B visas may sound similar, they share almost no similarities despite being nonimmigrant worker visas.
In this article, you will find out the difference between H-1B and H-2B visas.
What is the Difference Between H-1B and H-2B Visa? – The Fundamentals
H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa
The H-1B nonimmigrant classification applies to foreign nationals seeking admission to the United States to provide:
- Services in a specialty occupation
- Services of exceptional merit and ability associated with a Department of Defense (DOD)cooperative research and development project (H-1B2)
- Services as a distinguished fashion model (H-1B3)
The first requirement is an eligible job offer from a US employer. Most successful H-1B applicants are admitted to the United States through a job offer in a specialty occupation. USCIS defines the term “specialty occupation” as an occupation that requires:
- “Theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and
- Attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States”
To qualify to perform services in a specialty occupation, the applicant must meet one of the following criteria established by USCIS:
- “Hold a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university
- Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university
- Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification that authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be immediately engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment”
H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker Visa
The H-2B program permits US employers or authorized agents to recruit foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary employment gaps in nonagricultural US businesses. As prospective workers cannot self-petition for a visa, a US employer or a US agent must apply on a worker’s behalf.
To qualify for H-2B nonimmigrant classification, US petitioners must prove that:
- Not sufficient US workers are able, willing, qualified, and available to fill the existing temporary job offers
- The employment of foreign labor will not negatively affect the wages and working conditions of US workers in similar employment
- The need for prospective workers’ services and labor is actually temporary (regardless of whether the underlying job can be described as temporary)
USCIS considers a US employer’s need as temporary if it is:
- A one-time occurrence
- A seasonal need
- A peak-load need, or
- An intermittent need
Consult with an expert immigration attorney to identify whether your business’s seasonal or temporary need for additional workers is eligible for one of these categories. Please note that only foreign nationals from eligible H-2B countries are eligible to participate in the program.
H-1B Visa vs. H-2B Visa – Authorized Period of Stay
H-1B specialty occupation workers may be admitted for up to three years. Depending on the visa holder’s employment and performance, it may be extended. With few exceptions, the maximum period of stay cannot surpass a total of six years.
Conversely, the H-2B classification can be extended for qualifying employment in increments of up to one year each. The maximum period of stay for H-2B visa holders is three years.