The H-2B program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs.

Who May Qualify for H-2B Classification?

To qualify for H-2B nonimmigrant classification, the petitioner must establish that:

    • There are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.
    • Employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
    • Its need for the prospective worker’s services or labor is temporary, regardless of whether the underlying job can be described as temporary. The employer’s need is considered temporary if it is a(n):
  • One-time occurrence – A petitioner claiming a one-time occurrence must show that it has:
    • Not employed workers to perform the service or labor in the past, and will not need workers to perform the services or labor in the future; or
    • An employment situation that is otherwise permanent, but a temporary event of short duration has created the need for a temporary worker.


      • Seasonal need – A petitioner claiming a seasonal need must show that the service or labor for which it seeks workers is:
        • Traditionally tied to a season of the year by an event or pattern; and
        • Of a recurring nature.
      • Note: Employment is not seasonal if the period during which the service or labor is needed is:
        • Unpredictable;
        • Subject to change; or
        • Considered a vacation period for the employer’s permanent employees.


      • Peakload need – A petitioner claiming a peakload need must show that it:
        • Regularly employs permanent workers to perform the services or labor at the place of employment;
        • Needs to temporarily supplement its permanent staff at the place of employment due to a seasonal or short-term demand; and
        • The temporary additions to staff will not become part of the employer’s regular operation.


    • Intermittent need – A petitioner claiming an intermittent need must show that it:
      • Has not employed permanent or full-time workers to perform the services or labor; and
      • Occasionally or intermittently needs temporary workers to perform services or labor for short periods.

    H-2B petitioners must also provide a single valid temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), or, if the workers will be employed on Guam, from the Guam Department of Labor (Guam DOL).

    H-2B Cap

    There is a statutory numerical limit, or “cap,” on the total number of foreign nationals who may be issued an H-2B visa or otherwise granted H-2B status during a fiscal year. Currently, Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 – March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – September 30). Any unused numbers from the first half of the fiscal year will be available for employers seeking to hire H-2B workers during the second half of the fiscal year. However, unused H-2B numbers from one fiscal year do not carry over into the next.
    Once the H-2B cap is reached, USCIS may only accept petitions for H-2B workers who are exempt from the H-2B cap. For additional information on the current H-2B cap, and on workers who are exempt from it, see the “Cap Count for H-2B Nonimmigrants Web page.

    H-2B Returning Worker Program for Fiscal Year 2016

    Effective Dec. 18, 2015, H-2B workers identified as “returning workers” are exempted from the fiscal year (FY) 2016 annual H-2B cap of 66,000 visas.

    H-2B Eligible Countries List

    For a list of countries eligible to participate in the H-2B program, effective January 18, 2016, go to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

    Period of Stay

    Generally, USCIS may grant H-2B classification for up to the period of time authorized on the temporary labor certification. H-2B classification may be extended for qualifying employment in increments of up to 1 year each. A new, valid temporary labor certification covering the requested time must accompany each extension request. The maximum period of stay in H-2B classification is 3 years.

    A person who has held H-2B nonimmigrant status for a total of 3 years must depart and remain outside the United States for an uninterrupted period of 3 months before seeking readmission as an H-2B nonimmigrant. Additionally, previous time spent in other H or L classifications counts toward total H-2B time.

    Exception: Certain periods of time spent outside of the United States may “interrupt” an H-2B worker’s authorized stay and not count toward the 3-year limit. See the Calculating Interrupted Stay for H-2 Classifications Web page for additional information.

    Family of H-2B Workers

    Any H-2B worker’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may seek admission in H-4 nonimmigrant classification. Family members are not eligible for employment in the United States while in H-4 status.

    For more information on H-2b visas, go to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.