The H-2B visa is a document issued by the United States government that allows workers from other countries to work on a temporary basis in the United States. The work that can be performed under an H-2B visa varies in scope, but must not be agricultural in nature. Temporary agricultural workers may enter the United States under the H–2A visa. In general, a worker can receive an H-2B visa only if his employer can prove that there were no other qualified United States citizens or residents willing to perform the work. After the period of temporary work is completed, the foreign worker must leave the United States.
Workers cannot apply for the H–2B visa on their own. Instead, an employer must apply for the visa on the worker's behalf, submitting Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker to the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USBCIS). The employer must be able to show that it attempted to hire individuals who are already eligible for employment in the United States. This can be done by receiving certification through a state employment agency that attests to the fact that the employer made good faith efforts to recruit local workers. When considering an employer's application for a temporary worker visa, the USBCIS will want to see evidence that the worker has a family, home, or career to return to in his home country. This is because the United States government does not want immigrants to be unduly tempted to overstay their visa.
The types of work that may be covered under an H–2B visa may be of the seasonal variety, services performed at a one-time event, or reflect an employer's occasional or regular need for additional workers. For example, resorts that feature winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding may require additional, skilled workers during the winter months. As such, they could make an application for an H–2B visa for a number of foreign workers who have a great deal of experience working at ski resorts.
An H–2B visa may be good for as long as a year, though immigration officials have the right to restrict the length of time for which a visa may be valid. Extensions can be made to a temporary worker visa, which may allow a worker to remain in the United States for up to three years, though this may require interaction with immigration officers as well as documentation as to why the extension is needed. Workers who receive an H-2B visa may be able to secure an H-4 visa for their spouse and minor children so that these family members can join them in the United States. An H-4 visa does not permit the child or spouse of a worker to hold employment in the United States, however.