America needs truck drivers. As the country emerges from the pandemic, trucking and transportation companies are struggling to hire enough drivers domestically, contributing to supply chain disruptions nationwide, and leading more employers in this sector to extend their recruitment efforts abroad. If you are interested in coming to America to work as a truck driver, the H-2B nonimmigrant visa program is likely the best path.
An H-2B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to fill full-time, temporary, non-agricultural positions with workers from certain foreign countries. Employers must be able to demonstrate that they cannot find U.S. workers that are willing, able, qualified, and available to do the work and that the positions are temporary in nature, due to seasonal, intermittent, or peak load fluctuations in workflow or a one-time event of short duration.
This category of visa is particularly popular in certain industries, including food service, hospitality, landscaping, construction, forestry, and entertainment.
H-2B visas are capped at 66,000 per year and, as there is considerable demand for this program, you must submit a thorough, timely application in order to secure a visa. It is advisable that you work with an employment-based visa lawyer on the application process, which has three main parts.
Employer Applies for Temporary Labor Certificate
Your prospective U.S. employer or agent must begin the application process by applying for a temporary labor certification from the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL will be looking to verify that domestic workers will not be harmed by the company hiring foreign national workers. Besides demonstrating that the work is, in fact, temporary, the employer will need to show that it tried and failed to recruit commercial drivers domestically and that hiring H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
Employer Files Petition with USCIS
Once the labor certificate is received, the employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The employer can include multiple foreign national workers on the same H-2B petition.
Worker Goes Through Consular Processing
Once your employer’s petition is approved, you will be notified to apply for your visa with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and attend an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country.
Who Qualifies for an H-2B Visa for Truck Driving
To qualify for an H-2B visa as a truck driver, you must be at least 18 years old. While commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) issued in Mexico and Canada are valid in the United States, other drivers will need to pass a test and receive their U.S. CDL before beginning work. Your employer is responsible for ensuring that you are trained and licensed.
H-2B visas are only available to citizens of about 80 countries as approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The approved countries list, which was last updated on Jan. 19, 2021, includes Mexico, Canada, and nations from all regions of the world.
Period of Stay
For temporary positions based on seasonal, intermittent, or peak flow fluctuations, a labor certificate will not be approved for more than nine months. Temporary positions based on a one-time need may be approved for up to three years.
An H-2B visa is typically approved for the length of the labor certificate and may be extended for periods of up to one year; a new temporary labor certificate must accompany each extension request. An individual can remain in the H-2B status for up to three years. Once you have held H-2B status for three years, you must leave and remain outside the United States for three months before seeking readmission as an H-2B nonimmigrant.
If you are approved for an H-2B visa, your spouse and unmarried children under age 21 may seek admission under the H-4 nonimmigrant classification. However, this status will not permit them to work in the United States.
H-2B Visa Cap
The H-2B program is typically capped at 66,000 visas per fiscal year (Oct. 1-Sept. 30), with 33,000 issued for workers who begin work in the first half of the fiscal year and 33,000 for the second half. To assist employers facing labor shortages in the wake of the pandemic, 22,000 additional visas were made available for FY 2021, but there is no indication that this will continue into FY 2022, which began Oct. 1, 2021. On Sept. 30, 2021, the cap of 33,000 H-2B visas was reached for the first half of FY 2022, which encompasses employment dates beginning before April 1, 2022.
Working with an employment-based visa lawyer with expertise in the H-2B visa program can help ensure that your application will be successful.