By Rachel Neubauer, Cultural Outreach Intern

Here at Work and Travel, we receive numerous questions about the difference between a J-1 visa and H-2B visa. Let’s face it, a quick Google search brings up loads of websites providing literature on the two, and most of the break downs can be confusing. So we are offering a helping hand to differentiate between these two visas.

We hope this information is a start to guiding employers who are interested in bringing on international workers. We also hope it serves to empower business owners so they have a greater understanding of the process.

Here’s the breakdown:

J-1 Visas are designed to allow international visitors the opportunity to travel and work within the United States for educational purposes, in addition to gaining cultural experiences.

  • Department: All J-1 visas are regulated under the Department of State (DOS).
  • Documents: DS – 2019 Form, the certificate of eligibility for Exchange Visitor States, must be provided to participants by designated sponsors before they apply for the J-1 Visa.
  • Database: Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) – Department of Homeland Security’s web-based system tracks and monitors participants’ information. This information is accessed within the DOS website.

H-2B Visas are distributed to international workers, from select countries, who intend to fill non-agricultural jobs for United States employers in need of work.

    • Department: All H-2B visas are distributed and regulated under the Department of Labor (DOL) to job applicants filling seasonal, peak season and/or one-time occurrence positions.
    • Documents: An I-129 Form must be filed through an appointed attorney before the employer can search for job applicants outside of the US.
    • Database: Once approved, the employer can then file for an H-2B petition, and list job openings through the Department of Labor’s website – iCERT.

And there you have it: the meaty information regarding J-1 and H-2B visas! For more information on the difference between J-1 and H-2B visas, you can go to the J-1 Visa website.

We have also condensed this information into this comparison chart (or download the PDF) to help streamline the hiring and application process.

J-1 Visa H-2B Visa
Federal Department Department of State Department of Labor
Applicants Accepted participants in approved programs
*excluding Canada and Bermuda who do not require a visa to enter
Workers from select countries – 58 total
Purpose Educational and cultural experience for international candidates Fill non-agricultural jobs in peak, seasonal or one time need
Main Point of Contact Designated sponsors Assigned attorney
Type of Work Varies according to program Non-agricultural work
Fees Program, SEVIS, Visa Visa, I-129 filing fee (paid by employer), Attorney, Recruitment, Processing, Application, Transportation
Period of Stay Range from 4 months to several years. 1 year, up to 3 years max
Visa Capacity Per Year  109,000 66,000
 Sources: Common Questions for Participants (State Dept) H-2B Temporary Labor Certification Process

Since 1985, CCI Greenheart has created global leaders by facilitating cultural exchange and service learning opportunities for international students and professionals coming to the United States. Visit Work and Travel J-1 Visa Regulations to find out how our diverse programs foster diplomacy and spark intercultural understanding between people of all nations.