Cropped shot of young bellboy in uniform holding by metallic handles of baggage cart with suitcase of guests of modern hotel

If you are involved in the hotel and hospitality business here in Texas, then you’ve probably seen your business grow exponentially over the last few years. Not only is Texas one of the top travel spots in the United States. It has also become one of the fastest-growing states when it comes to population, with many new arrivals needing long-term stays at hotels and inns while they wait for their houses and apartments to become available. As a result, the hospitality industry has seen its employment grow by over 30,000 new employees over the last year, an exceptional 2.1% growth. However, this has probably left you with staffing issues, as it has become hard to find quality hospitality workers for your hotels, motels and inns. Fortunately, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has an excellent way for you to address your employment concerns. You can use the H-2B visa program to fill your employment roster with temporary workers for your hospitality business. An experienced immigration attorney can assist you in this process, helping you find quality workers for your business. 

How does the H-2B visa work for hospitality employees? 

The H-2B visa is a nonimmigrant visa. This means that the person you are sponsoring will be coming to the United States to work at your hospitality business on a temporary basis. This is different from an immigrant visa, where the worker will become a permanent U.S. resident. Also, the H-2B is not a green card, meaning that it does not afford a pathway to citizenship for the employee. The idea is that the hospitality worker will come here to fill a position because of a temporary labor shortage. 

This visa is also different from many other employment-based visas as it doesn’t require any specific educational or skill requirements. This makes it different from the H-1B visa, which requires the employer to show that the beneficiary employee holds at least a bachelor’s degree and has specialized occupation skills. Here, the process involves general staffing to meet the needs of an industry affected by labor shortages. 

Right now, the hospitality business is seeing significant staffing issues. There are roughly 400,000 unfilled jobs in the industry today, so there is a very good chance that you are seeing this problem with your hotels in Texas. The H-2B visa program provides you with a way to address this by hiring foreign guest workers on a temporary basis. In this way, employers like you can get employees experienced in working at hotels in various capacities without taking jobs away from American hospitality workers. 

What are the time periods for an H-2B worker? 

If you are able to hire through this process, your foreign worker will be able to work at your business for up to three years. However, each H-2B employee can only work at your hotel for 9 months in any calendar year, spending the remaining three months in his or her home country. This should not present a problem if you are like most hoteliers in Texas. This is a very cyclical business, so you can time the staffing to coincide with your busy season, with the guest workers returning home when your business is slow. Keep in mind that this does not mean that the foreign worker will have to work for a full 9 months, and can often be employed for shorter periods of time depending on your needs.

The good thing about the H-2B is that workers admitted under the program can also bring along their dependents. So, if the guest worker you are sponsoring is married, he or she can bring their spouse and any dependent children as well. All you will need to do is file for H-4 visas for any such dependents under the H-2B visa granted to your guest worker. 

How is the H-2B determined?

The H-2B operates on a lottery system. Prospective employees go through a process involving the United States Department of Labor (DOL), the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), and the USCIS to get granted the right to hire foreign workers through the H-2B visa program. In the past, Congress capped the program at 66,000 participants. However, because of ongoing labor shortages in many industries including hospitality, the cap has been increased to a total of over 130,000 visas for 2024. An additional 20,000 workers from Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti will be eligible for H-2B supplemental visas, as well as an additional 44,000 supplemental visas for returning workers who had previously held H-2B visas. This expansion will make it easier for hospitality business owners like you to meet your staffing needs through the employment of foreign guest workers. 

How does the process work to get H-2B visas? 

Basically, there are three stages to getting approved for sponsoring H-2B visas for your hospitality business. The first stage involves the DOL. This requires you to get a prevailing wage determination by the DOL. This process starts by sending in paperwork setting forth the job duties for the positions you are looking to fill and the locations of your hotels in Texas. The DOL will then send you a final determination letter setting forth the prevailing wage for the jobs. The second step involves the TWC. You will need to send the prevailing wage determination letter from the DOL to the TWC for temporary labor certification along with an H-2B Job Posting Request Form. After filing this, you will need to start advertising to fill the open positions at your hotels. You should keep copies of all advertisements, even if you are using online recruitment websites like Indeed. 

If you turn any prospective employees down, you will need to explain the reasons for rejecting their applications. In addition, you will need to show that you reached out to former employees, exhausting all of your employment options here in the United States. The key is to demonstrate that the foreign guest worker will not be taking away a job from a U.S. citizen. The final step is filing a petition with the USCIS to participate in the H-2B visa program. This will include all of the documentation that you submitted and/or received from the DOL and TWC. 

Once the petition is granted, you can begin recruiting foreign guest workers. Ones that you have identified as prospective employees will need to be interviewed at the U.S. embassy or consultant in their home country. Upon approval, you will file an online application for entry with the Customs and Border Patrol so that your new guest worker can enter the country under the H-2B program. 

You should keep in mind that as the petitioning employer, you are responsible for paying all filing fees with USCIS and other agencies, legal fees for your immigration attorney, and travel expenses for your guest workers. In addition, you will need to get your guest workers’ Social Security numbers and arrange for adequate housing for them and their dependents. Still, this can be a very optimal and cost-effective way of meeting your staffing needs in the hospitality industry. 

Let our firm assist you in using the H-2B visa program to help you find foreign hospitality workers 

The experienced immigration attorneys at the Zepeda Law Firm, PLLC, can help you deal with your hotel’s staffing needs through hiring guest workers. We will assist you each step of the way through the H-2B visa process so you can get the workers you need to keep your hospitality business in Texas running well.