When Immigration Matters

The Differences Between the H1B Visa and H2B Visa

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Oct 10, 2017 11:30:00 AM

Pretty young lady taking a decision with scale above her head-007260-edited.jpegH1B visa vs. H2B visaHere at Pollak PLLC, we are pleased to offer articles and videos to help you get the reliable, accurate and easy-to-understand information you need about various visa and immigration options (obviously we cannot provide specific legal advice, since that can only be done on a case-by-case basis after learning all of the details, factors, variables and so on).

As part of our commitment to educating and empowering you, here is a look at the differences between the H1B visa vs. the H2B visa. Looking at these two visa categories is particularly important in the current political climate, since they have both been in the headlines over the last several months — although for different reasons.

About the H1B Visa

The H1B visa, which is valid for three years (after which it can be renewed for an additional three years), is designated for individuals who have specialized skills that are typically earned through advanced graduate degrees obtained from qualifying institutions. 

Foreign nationals who petition for an H1B visa must have a job offer in their area of expertise from a U.S. based employer, and the Department of Labor must confirm that the role cannot be filled by a U.S. citizen (i.e. the employer must try, and fail, to recruit locally for the position). What’s more, the employer must affirm that it will pay the foreign national the prevailing average salary, and that working conditions will be in alignment with employees who are U.S. citizens.

In addition to the H1B visa described above, there are also the H1B2 and H1B3 visa sub-categories, respectively. The H1B2 visa is for government research work (typically facilitated by an agreement between the U.S. government and petitioner’s government), while the H13B visa is for high-profile fashion models. 

Also note that there is a statutory limit (“cap) of H1B visas available each year. For the 2018 fiscal year, this number has been set at 65,000.

About the H2B Visa

The H2B visa is designed to allow U.S. employers (or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements) to bring non-professional foreign workers to the U.S., so they can work in non-agricultural temporary jobs, such as those in the tourism and hospitality industry. Once their H2B visa expires, foreign national must return home. The maximum authorization period is one year, although in some cases employers may extend this to three years. Keep in mind that if USCIS or DHS is not fully satisfied that a petitioner intends to return, they will not approve the application in the first place. 

At the current time, Congress has set the H2B visa cap at 66,000 per fiscal year (33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year, and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year). In July 2017, the DHS and DOL agreed to a one-time increase of 15,000 H2B visas for the 2017 fiscal year only, and further announced on September 15 that it is no longer accepting petitions under this provision. While it is possible that another one-time increase will be enacted for the 2018 fiscal year (and beyond that), this is by no means guaranteed, and in the current political climate some observers say it is unlikely.

Learn More About the H1B Visa vs. the H2B Visa

If you are a U.S. employer that wants to augment your workforce with a foreign national(s) — either professional and permanent (H1B visa) or non-professional, non-agricultural and temporary (H2B visa) — then contact the Pollak team today.

We also invite you to contact us if you are a foreign national, and want to get a clear understanding of the visa petition process, and how you and your prospective U.S. employer can work together to put together a robust, complete and timely application package.


Karen-Lee Pollak is the Managing Attorney at Pollak PLLC located in Dallas, Texas. She is a frequent speaker, author and blogger on immigration issues. She can be reached at karenlp@pollakimmigration or under her twitter handle law_immigration.

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