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How to File for Non-Agricultural H-2B Visas (Now That More Are Available!)

August 11, 2021 - minute read

When it comes to managing a business, hourly workforce employers are no stranger to having to fight to keep positions filled year-round. The struggle to find dependable, qualified workers for temporary positions can be even harder – especially in light of complications like the COVID-19 pandemic of the past year.

For employers who can’t find American workers to fill such seasonal positions as landscapers, maids and outdoor entertainment attendants, the H-2B option is often key for success. These temporary visas, which are granted by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), authorize employers to petition for the non-agricultural workers they need to keep their businesses alive.

Approved workers come in via H-2B visas, but cannot stay beyond the maximum period of three years. Though the program represents less than 1/10 of 1 percent of all U.S. workers, the program is a lifeline for niche industries. The reality is that these visas allow employers to hire the vital workers they need to fulfill the U.S. jobs many American citizens don’t want to do themselves.

Let’s talk through what this means for your business, the latest updates for returning H-2B workers, and what your next steps should be if you are looking to take advantage of this program.

Who Can Receive H-2B Visas?

These supplemental visas are available to any U.S. businesses that can attest that their operations will suffer irreparable harm without the presence of H-2B workers. Unfortunately, there are specific criteria you’ll need to satisfy, and there is a cap on the number of visas available each fiscal year (66,000 split between the first and second halves of the year).

Luckily, on May 25, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a temporary final rule increasing the number of H-2B nonimmigrant visas by up to 22,000 additional visas through the end of the fiscal year (2021). So even with the initial cap reached, there’s still a chance you can win the H-2B lottery.

The USCIS will stop accepting petitions under this increase in total available visas after September 15, 2021, or when the cap is reached, whichever occurs first. Of the 22,000 additional temporary visas, 16,000 are to be available only for returning workers (those employees who received an H-2B status within the last three fiscal years). The remaining 6,000 are set aside for residents of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

How to Petition for H-2B Visas as an Employer

Before requesting H-2B classification from USCIS, you apply for and receive a temporary labor certification for H-2B workers with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) via the DOL’s Foreign Labor Certification website. Next, you’ll need to submit a Form I-129 with the USCIS, including the temporary labor certification achieved in step one of this process.

Your prospective workers will have to apply for a visa and admission, as well. For more in-depth information on this critical process, visit the H-2B Program Process section of the Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers page.

Workforce Management for Managing H-2Bs

At EPAY Systems, we built our system to be able to handle even the most niche hourly workforce environments —and yes, that includes tracking seasonal workers using H-2B visas. Our flexible HCM system is built to accommodate fluid, ever-changing workforces like yours and ensure all areas of compliance are consistently managed.

From our streamlined recruiting and applicant tracking software to our advanced time and attendance solution, we can help you make the most of your workforce—not just during busy season, but every day of the year. Take a tour of our workforce management platform today! Or request a personalized demo to see exactly how our tools can optimize your operation.