How to Change Employer with an H-2 Visa in the United States

“How can I change employers while on an H-2 visa?” is one of the most common questions we get from workers who call our helpline. The validity of an H-2 visa is contingent on the worker’s continued employment with the employer who hired them. This is a common and significant problem that many workers face while on a visa. This means that an employee cannot easily leave their current position.
For an H-2 visa holder to change employer, the following steps should be considered;

Find an Employer with Foreign Labour Certification Status

To change employers, an H-2 worker must first check with the US Department of Labor (USDOL) to see if the new firm is allowed to hire H-2 workers. Workers can check their employer’s eligibility by inquiring if they have a Foreign Labor Certification from the US Department of Labor. On Centro de Los Derechos, workers can look for firms that are currently eligible for Foreign Labor Certification.

An I-129 form must be submitted to USCIS by the new employer.

When a worker receives a job offer from a qualifying employer, the employer must file Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS.

In most situations, an H-2 worker cannot start working for a new company until the petition for a change of employer is approved by USCIS. There are few exceptions, however, that allow workers to begin working immediately.

When an H-2 Worker can start working before approval of I-129

H-2 workers are not eligible for the E-Verify exception. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is enabling H-2 workers to start working for a new company after USCIS receives the I-129 petition but before it is approved, giving them temporary mobility flexibility.

If the new petition is denied by USCIS, the H-2 worker’s work authorization will be automatically terminated 15 days after the denial decision.

One of your employers should cover the cost of travel

The cost of your transportation from your old employment to your new position is usually covered by your previous employer. You might also work out a deal with your new job to cover your expenses. In any case, you should not be responsible for your transportation costs.

Workers should not risk lingering past their visa’s expiration date to change jobs.

Since workers often have a narrow window to change jobs, the process of changing employers can be cumbersome. Employers must notify an H-2 worker who leaves early due to mistreatment to USCIS, and the agency must cancel the petition if the worker is no longer employed by the employer. As a result, workers have a very narrow window of opportunity to switch employment and will almost always be required to retrain.

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