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The H-2B visa program explained

A successful business creates valuable benefits to the company, its workers and the community it serves. But in the busy season, there are industries across the country that just can't find enough temporary American workers to meet their needs.

When that happens, the labor shortfall puts businesses and all of their employees at risk, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In those cases, there's a government program called H-2B that allows seasonal, non-agricultural workers from outside the U.S. to come in temporarily and fill the gap.

What is H-2B?

H-2B is a nonimmigrant work visa program for temporary workers. Under this program, workers come when demand for their work is highest.

The H-2B program is small, but it plays a valuable role in the economies of many communities. For the industries that need these workers, it's critically important. But employers must spend thousands to apply with no guarantee they'll get the workers they need.

Application process

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), participation in the H-2B program means meeting some strict requirements. First, a business must prove that U.S. men and women are given first crack at the jobs. Then, the U. S. Department of Labor (DoL) and state workforce agencies have to certify that fact. The DoL then determines what the H-2B worker should be paid, which must be higher than the federal, state or local minimum wage.

After the DoL signs off, businesses then apply to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for permission to hire a temporary worker for the job when an appropriate foreign worker is found. Then the U.S. State Department conducts background security checks on applicants and approves H-2B visas, allowing workers to come to the United States.

As with any employment-based visa, the application process can be complex – and any mistake can lead to a denial. It is advisable for employers seeking to hire foreign workers to first consult with an immigration attorney for assistance.

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