US reaches H-2B visa cap for second half of fiscal year

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has received enough applications to meet the H-2B visa cap for the second half of the 2019 fiscal year.

USCIS has announced that 19th February was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before 1st October 2019. USCIS will reject any new cap-subject H-2B visa petitions received after this date.

With the number of applications received having comfortably surpassed the cap then, in accordance with regulations, USCIS determined that a computer-generated process, commonly known as a lottery, would take place to ensure the fair and orderly allocation of H-2B visas. On 21st February, USCIS conducted a lottery to randomly select petitions from those received. As a result, USCIS has assigned all petitions selected in the lottery and informed all those who have been unsuccessful.

However, USCIS continues to accept H-2B visa petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap. This includes petitions for:

– Current H-2B workers in the United States petitioning to extend their stay and, if applicable, change the terms of their employment or change their employers;

– Fish roe processors, fish roe technicians, and/or supervisors of fish roe processing; and

– Workers performing labour or services in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam from 28th November 2009, until 31st December 2029.

US businesses use the H-2B visa program to employ foreign workers for temporary non-agricultural jobs.

Currently, Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (1st October – 31st March) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (1st April – 30th September) plus any unused numbers from the first half of the fiscal year, if any.

However, unused H-2B numbers from one fiscal year do not carry over into the next.

Article published 26th February 2019