US employers in different segments need workers to fill temporary or seasonal employment gaps. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) created the H-2 visas, allowing US employers to bring foreign workers to the United States to occupy temporary or seasonal jobs.
In this article, you will discover the difference between H-2A and H-2B visas.
H-2A and H-2B Visas – The Essentials
Neither H-2A nor H-2B visas permit prospective workers to self-petition. USCIS requires that a US employer must apply on the worker’s behalf. The application process for both programs generally requires a temporary labor certification issued by the US Department of Labor.
The H-2A and H-2B classifications are restricted to nationals of specific countries. 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 (counting from the date of publication).
H-2A Temporary Agricultural Visa
US farmers who need workers to perform temporary or seasonal jobs may benefit from the H-2A visa program. USCIS requires that the petitioner must be a US employer, a US agent (as described in regulations), or an association of US agricultural producers named as a joint employer.
When applying with USCIS, the petitioner must:
- Present an agricultural job offer of temporary or seasonal nature
- Prove that there are not enough domestic workers able, willing, qualified, and available to perform the required activities
- Demonstrate that the employment of foreign workers will not negatively impact the wages and working conditions of US workers in similar employment
H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Visa
The H-2B program permits US employers or authorized agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to recruit foreign nationals to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs in the United States.
In the H-2B application process, the petitioner must establish that:
- Not sufficient domestic workers are able, willing, qualified, and available to fill the employment gap
- The employment of foreign workers will not negatively impact the wages and working conditions of US workers in similar employment
- The need for prospective foreign workers is temporary (regardless of whether the job can be described as temporary)
The H-2B has specific definitions to classify temporary work, such as one-time occurrence jobs, a seasonal need, a peak-load need, or an intermittent need. In recent years, industries with a high prevalence of H-2B workers include:
- Food services
- Hotels and motels
- Janitorial services
- Landscaping services
Differences Between H-2A and H-2B – Annual Quota
The H-2A agricultural visa has no fixed statutory numerical limit (cap). Conversely, the H-2B program has a fixed limit on the total number of non-US citizens who may get a temporary visa during a fiscal year. As of 2022, US Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year.
The number is divided into 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).