U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reached its threshold for H-2B visa petitions for workers requesting employment start dates before April 1, 2016. Most petitions submitted after March 15 are rejected by the agency.
H-2B visas, which are awarded to seasonal or temporary workers in nonagricultural jobs, has a congressionally-mandated cap of 66,000 workers each fiscal year (FY)– equally dividing the number at 33,000 for both the first and second half of each FY. With the H-2B program, U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements can bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs. Employers and agents must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on a prospective worker’s behalf.
Petitions exempt from the cap, and which allow employers and agencies to continue petitioning for the first half of FY 2016, include:
- Petitions for “returning workers” who were previously counted against the annual H-2B cap during FYs 2013, 2014 and 2015.More information about the program is available on on the USCIS page H-2B Returning Workers Exempted from the H-2B Cap for Fiscal Year 2016.
- Petitions for extending the stay of H-2B visa workers.
- Petitions in the fish roe industry.
- Petitions for workers performing labor or services from November 28, 2009, until December 31, 2019, in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam.
Petitions falling in other categories aren’t exempt from the cap and will be rejected by USCIS.
For returning H-2B visa returning workers, petitioners must complete and include the H-2B Returning Worker Certification. USCIS also encourages petitioners to write “H-2B Returning Workers” prominently on the envelope and any cover page in their form submissions.
In qualifying for H-2B nonimmigrant classification, petitioners must establish:
- Not enough U.S. workers are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work
- No adverse consequences on wages and working conditions of similarly-employed U.S. workers result in the employment of H-2B workers.
- Need for H-2B workers is temporary– a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, peakload need or intermittent need
More information about the H-2B work program is available at uscis.gov/h-2b or by calling the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.