WASHINGTON— On Feb. 21, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began receiving H-2B cap-subject petitions for the second half of fiscal year 2018.
During the first five business days USCIS received approximately 2,700 H-2B cap-subject petitions requesting approximately 47,000 workers, which is more than the number of H-2B visas available. As a result, USCIS, in accordance with applicable regulations, conducted a lottery on Feb. 28 to randomly select enough petitions to meet the cap.
USCIS will reject and return the petitions and associated filing fees to petitioners that were not selected, as well as any cap-subject petitions received after Feb. 27.
In January, the Department of Labor announced a change to its process of issuing labor certifications. As a result, on Feb. 7 USCIS advised of the likely need to conduct an H-2B visa lottery for the second half of FY18. As was noted in that Feb. 7 statement, USCIS would be maintaining a flexible approach to this issue by ensuring H-2B visas were allocated fairly and would not exceed the cap.
USCIS continues to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from, or not counted towards, the congressionally mandated cap. This includes petitions for the following workers:
- Current H-2B workers in the United States seeking 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 labor or services in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam, until Dec. 31, 2019.
H-2B petitioners may continue to request premium processing together with their H-2B petition. However, please note that because the final receipt date was one of the first five business days of the filing season, petitions accepted in the lottery will be given a receipt date of March 1, 2018. Premium processing service for these petitions began on that receipt date.
U.S. businesses use the H-2B program to employ foreign workers for temporary nonagricultural jobs. 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 (Oct. 1 – March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – Sept. 30). Additional information is available on the Cap Count for H-2B Nonimmigrants page.
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