Untapped workforce • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine

Untapped workforce

H-2B visa program option when foreign workers are needed to fill temporary professional roles

Lauren Ehardt And Alfredo Estrada
Lauren Ehardt And Alfredo Estrada of Burke Costanza & Carberry (Photo provided)

A massive labor shortage is taking a major toll on businesses both nationally and locally.

Across the U.S., there are now 3 million fewer workers than there were in early 2020. Similarly, according to the data from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, there were more than 145,000 open job postings throughout the state as of September. With so many available jobs, employers across Indiana, including Northwest Indiana, struggle to find employees to properly operate their businesses. Where this is the case, and businesses are suffering due to a lack of willing and capable workers, businesses may be able to seek relief through the H-2B visa.

The H-2B visa is for temporary non-agricultural workers This visa will allow employers to legally hire the necessary foreign workers for up to nine months to meet their needs. Generally, the H-2B visa is limited to a specified period of time to meet the needs of a business that has an increased temporary demand for workers due to activity, season, event or unique situation.

In the past, the H-2B visas have been granted to fill the immense need for landscaping workers, forestry workers, amusement attendants, maids and housekeepers, construction laborers, and restaurant workers. However, these are not the only occupations and industries that may benefit from using H-2B visas. With proper legal advice, endless industries and businesses have the potential to benefit from legally employing foreign workers. Additionally, while the H-2B visa only allows workers to temporarily work for a business during a time period of particular need, H-2B visa workers may return year after year, ultimately providing consistent help to businesses in need.

Not only is it beneficial for businesses and employers to employ foreign workers, but foreign workers who obtain an H-2B visa can work and bring their spouse and children with them to the U.S. while employed. Further, visa holders are permitted to travel in and out of the U.S. as needed.

To obtain H-2B status as an employer and to obtain an H-2B visa for an employee, a specific procedure must be followed. The process consists of three main steps:

  • The employer must obtain temporary labor certification from their state workforce agency.
  • The employer must file a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • The employee must apply for a visa in their home country.

Each step must be completed in compliance with several specific and exacting requirements. Additionally, there is a maximum number of visas that can be granted each year nationally. Therefore, seeking legal advice is imperative to ensure the process is properly followed and the cap is not yet reached.

Both the Department of Labor and USCIS are unforgiving, and compliance with each requirement throughout the process of obtaining temporary labor certification and the visa itself is essential. Immigration laws are known for their complexities. Thus, an understanding of immigration laws and a mastery of the procedures are required to be successful in complex immigration processes.

However, if all requirements are met, the use of H-2B visas will be mutually beneficial to employers and the foreign workers employed.

The H-2B visa bridges the gap between the labor shortage and necessity for Northwest Indiana employers to operate their businesses. Employers in Northwest Indiana have the opportunity to use the H-2B visa program to meet their labor needs. Simultaneously, foreign workers can benefit through the program and be with their families while working in the U.S. Awareness of both the H-2B program as well as other immigration employment laws is the first step to sustaining a successful business and surviving the nationwide labor shortage.

Click here to read more from the December-January 2023 issue of Northwest Indiana Business Magazine.

Author

  • Lauren Ehardt and Alfredo Estrada

    Lauren Ehardt is a summer associate with the law firm of Burke Costanza & Carberry in Merrillville. She received her Doctor of Law from Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology.Alfredo Estrada is a partner at Burke Costanza & Carberry and the chair of its immigration practice group. Estrada also is the first Latino president of the Lake County Bar Association. He graduated from Valparaiso University Law School.

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