High-Demand H-2B Visas Hit FY2016 Cap

Cap reached for H-2B visas 2016U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is no longer accepting petition submissions for high-demand H-2B visas for fiscal year (FY) 2016 as the agency has received enough of the petitions to fill the congressionally mandated cap. The end of USCIS acceptance of submissions applies to those petitions for workers with a planned start date before Oct. 1, 2016, but it doesn’t apply to certain petitions that are deemed exempt from the cap.

On May 12, USCIS announced in a release it had received enough submissions to reach the congressionally-mandated cap for the visas, which enable unskilled laborers to work in the United States. The visas are awarded to temporary or seasonal workers.

Some H-2B visa petitions for FY 2016 are exempt from the cap, however. These include:

  • Those classified as “returning workers” who were previously counted against the H-2B visa cap during FYs 2013, 2014 or 2015
  • Those current H-2B workers already in the U.S. and petitioning for an extended stay or those looking to change their terms of employment or their employer
  • Those who work as fish roe processors, fish roe technicians or supervisors of fish roe processing

USCIS also exempts those working in the Commonwealth or Northern Mariana Islands or Guam from Nov. 28, 2009 until Dec. 31, 2019.

For H-2B visa returning worker requests, USCIS reminds petitioners to include the H-2B Returning Worker Certification as part of their submission in order to avoid delays. USCIS also encourages petitioners to write “H-2B Returning Workers” prominently on the envelope or cover page.

The Congressionally-mandated H-2B visa cap is set at the beginning of every fiscal year, which begins October 1. The visas provide a nonimmigrant classification to workers entering the United States.

H-2B visas typically run in high demand as U.S. business owners use the program to fill a high volume of unskilled jobs on a temporary or seasonal basis. Employers who are interested in hiring H-2B visa workers must show the U.S. Department of Labor that it has conducted recruitment efforts and that no U.S. workers are available to fill the role.

USCIS will begin accepting H-2B visa petitions for FY 2017 beginning on Oct. 1.