H2A and H2B Visa Programs: What Are the Differences?

H2A and H2B Visa Programs, What Are the Differences

For employers who hire temporary foreign workers, understanding the proper visa programs to legally bring these workers to the U.S. is vital. The H2A and the H2B visa programs can work for foreign temporary workers, but they're slightly different. H2A caters to seasonal agricultural migrant workers, while H2B is for non-agricultural work. Here's a closer look at these programs and how to use them to find seasonal workers when needed.

What Are the H2A and H2B Visa Programs?

The H2A visa program applies to agricultural workers. Nurseries, farms, ranches, orchards, and similar businesses can use this visa program to bring in workers temporarily to help with seasonal work, including harvesting, planting, and livestock herding.

The H2B visa program is for seasonal, temporary workers in other sectors. These workers may be needed in meat or seafood processing, hospitality, construction, tourism, and landscaping. Truck drivers can also be the type of worker that comes to the U.S. under this visa, especially during current shortages.

What Are the Differences Between H2A and H2B Visas?

There are specific differences between these two visas. These include:

  • Type of Work: The H2A visa applies entirely to agricultural work, and the H2B visa works for other types of work.
  • Duration of Stay: Both have a maximum period of stay of three years, but the H2A visa only allows one year except for extenuating circumstances. H2B visas can extend their work for more than one year if it is a one-time issue, not necessarily exceptional circumstances.
  • Employer Obligations: Most employer obligations, such as covering transportation to and from the nonimmigrant's home country and paying a fair wage, are the same. However, employers must provide H2A employees with housing, while those on an H2B visa do not have to provide housing, though they often will. Also, H2A employers must provide daily transportation to and from the housing to the place of work, while H2B employers do not.

Common Features

Despite some differences, the H2A and H2B visa programs share many similarities. These include:

  • Temporary in nature
  • Similar application requirements for employer and employee
  • Requires prospective employees to be nationals of an eligible country
  • Employing nonimmigrant workers cannot hurt the wages and working conditions of similar American national workers
  • Requires the employer to apply for temporary labor certification to the U.S. Department of Labor before the employee can apply for the visa
  • Applied for through the U.S. Department of State at an embassy or consulate

Challenges for Employers

Hiring foreign nationals for temporary needs can create a few challenges for employers. First, you must prove that your need is temporary and that there aren't qualified American workers who can tackle the work. Second, there are stringent requirements for housing and transportation under the H2A program, and you must meet these well. Finally, you must know and meet all government guidelines, both at the federal and state levels, to hire these workers.

The best way to overcome these challenges is to work with a qualified immigration professional who can help you and your temporary employees navigate these unique challenges. With the right legal help with immigration law knowledge, you can successfully utilize these programs without undue risk to your business.

The financial side of hiring H2A and H2B employees is also challenging. You are required by law to pay your workers a fair wage and pay it on time. You must also give workers itemized, written statements showing the deductions taken. You aren't required to withhold federal income tax, but there may be local and state taxes you need to withhold. Working with a payroll solutions organization that understands migrant workers can help you navigate these challenges.

Seasonal Workers Can Be Challenging- the Right Help Can Make It Work

Hiring seasonal migrant workers, whether for your agricultural business or another type of seasonal work, can be challenging. The H2A and H2B visa programs can be difficult to understand for you and your workers. However, once you get the right help, you can take advantage of these programs to bring in the right help.

Are you looking for efficient payroll management for your foreign temporary workers? Contact Workforce PayHub today for comprehensive payroll services tailored to your unique needs!

Eric Jones
Everything to Know About Employing Seasonal Migrant Workers What is the H-2A Visa Program?
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