Employers facing a shortage of seasonal workers–including resorts in places like Jackson and West Yellowstone, landscaping businesses in places like Idaho Falls and Pocatello, and other non-agricultural employers–can look outside the U.S. for hiring options using the H-2B Temporary Worker Program.
Here are a few things to know about the H-2B visas:
- The rules change literally every year. This means that some of the information here may not be entirely up-to-date when you read it.
- H-2B visas are especially useful for getting a lot of seasonal workers here who have the same job duties. They become much more expensive per worker if you only need one or two workers.
- There’s an annual limit on how many seasonal workers are allowed into the U.S., so it’s important that you start the process well in advance of actually needing the workers. In fact, for those looking for summer help in 2017, time is very quickly running out (as of mid-September 2016) to start the process. It wouldn’t hurt to contact an immigration attorney regarding the H-2B visa process up to a year before you need workers.
- The process is complex, and involves working with a few different state and federal organizations. This isn’t a do-it-yourself kind of thing.
- The process is expensive. You’ll pay several thousand dollars for the first worker and several hundred for each subsequent worker. And you can’t make the workers pay the fees–the employer has to pay the fees.
- The visa is temporary in nature. Workers can come here for up to nine months on the visa, but, unless the visa is extended, they’re limited to nine months. The following year you’ll have to go through the whole process again.
- While on the H-2B visa, the workers cannot legally work in the U.S. for another employer unless that employer also goes through the H-2B visa process.
- An entirely different process applies for employers who bring in seasonal agricultural workers; this process is also complex.
- Employees can’t come from every country for the H-2B visa; however, citizens from many countries are allowed to participate. USCIS provides a list of those countries. Be aware that that list changes from time to time.
- The H-2B visa is underused in Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming. It’s a fantastic way to get seasonal, hard-working employees when you’re not able to get enough local workers hired.
The H-2B visa is a fantastic way to get a large number of employees for temporary or seasonal work, but it does have its downsides. An immigration attorney can let you know how much the process will cost, and can answer other questions you might have.