U.S. landscaping companies struggle to hire enough staff, which forces many of them to turn away business. Fortunately, there are visa programs available that allow U.S. employers to bring workers from other countries to perform jobs such as lawn and tree care and landscape design and installation. If you are an employer looking to hire landscaping workers or a foreign national looking to work in the United States, see below for a summary of visa options for the landscaping industry.
H-2B Visa Program
The H-2B nonimmigrant visa program allows U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals from about 80 eligible countries to fill seasonal and other temporary full-time positions that require little or no formal education. Given the labor shortages and seasonal nature of many landscaping jobs, the industry is a perfect fit for the H-2B program. In fact, landscaping is one of the largest industries to utilize this program.
To successfully hire foreign workers through this program, employers must be able to demonstrate that the work is, in fact, temporary. They must also secure a temporary labor certificate by showing that they tried but failed to recruit U.S. workers to fill the position and that hiring foreign laborers will not harm similarly situated U.S. workers.
Unfortunately, the H-2B program is capped at 66,000 visas in a typical year, and, as demand for the program exceeds the supply of visas available, spots are awarded by lottery. Half of the 66,000 visas are reserved for workers with job start dates from October 1-March 31 and the other half are allotted to workers beginning work from April 1-September 30. The application process is complex and must be started several months before the target hire date.
An H-2B visa can be approved for up to a year initially, and it can be extended in one-year increments, not to exceed three years total.
H-1B Visa Program
Certain positions requiring specialized expertise and education, such as a landscape designer or landscape architect, may qualify for the H-1B program, which provides nonimmigrant visas for workers in specialty occupations.
To qualify as a specialty occupation, the position must normally require at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or the foreign equivalent, and the foreign worker must hold a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in a field related to the position.
Similar to H-2B visas, U.S. employers must show they were unable to recruit workers domestically or that hiring a foreign worker will not harm similarly employed U.S. workers. H-1B visas are also capped, and the program is highly competitive. In a typical year, there may be more than 200,000 applicants competing for 85,000 visas, with 20,000 spots reserved for advanced degree professionals who graduated from a U.S. university.
Unlike H-2B visas, H-1B visas are valid for an initial period of up to three years. They can be extended for up to three additional years.
TN Visa Program
Canadian and Mexican citizens in certain professions can apply for TN nonimmigrant visas if they have a job offer from a U.S. employer. The program, which resulted from the North American Free Trade Agreement, features a list of eligible positions, which generally require a bachelor’s degree or higher. As “landscape architect” is on the list, this program is a good option for landscaping companies searching for a landscape architect with a bachelor’s degree. TN visas are not capped and the application process is less complex than other employment-based visa programs.
TN nonimmigrant visas are valid for up to three years initially and can be extended, with no set limit to how long an individual can remain in this status.
Employment-Based Green Cards
Sometimes employers and workers in these nonimmigrant programs are happy with the arrangement and want to continue the relationship year after year. As there are limits to the length of time foreign nationals can remain in most nonimmigrant statuses, some landscaping companies may choose to sponsor certain noncitizen workers for employment-based green cards. These immigrant visas are divided by “preference” categories, with the third preference (EB-3) the most appropriate choice for most landscaping positions. The EB-3 category applies to skilled workers, professionals, and other workers with a full-time, non-seasonal job offer. Note that this option is not a good fit for seasonal positions.
EB-3 visas are limited each year and in some cases, the process can stretch on for years. After the employer secures permanent labor certification for the position from the Department of Labor and petitions on behalf of the prospective employee with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, EB-3 visa applicants are assigned a priority number, which varies by country. Workers from certain countries may have to wait several years for their numbers to come up and their applications to be processed.
Bolour/Carl Can Help
Whether you are a landscaping company looking to hire foreign national workers or a foreign national worker with a job offer from a U.S. employer, the employment-based visa lawyers at Bolour/Carl can help you determine the best visa program to meet your needs and expertly guide you through the complex H-2B, H-1B, TN or green card application processes. Contact Bolour/Carl Immigration Group at 323-857-0034 or [email protected].