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USCIS Already Hits H-2B Cap for the First Half of 2018

welder-3018425_640-300x204US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that applications for the H-2B visa have already reached the congressionally mandated cap for the first half of 2018.

December 15, 2017 was the final day for receipt of new H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date in the United States before April 1, 2018. As such, Immigration Services will not be accommodating any new H-2B petitions with an employment start date on April due to the cap being reached.

What is the H-2B Program?

The H-2B is an immigration program that allows U.S. employers or agents who meet “specific regulatory requirements” to temporarily take in foreign nationals for non-agricultural jobs.

There are limits to the H-2B beginning with the burden of the petitioner to prove that U.S. workers do not qualify for the job and that taking in the foreigner would have no adverse impact on U.S. wages and working conditions. On top of that, Congress placed a cap on the number of H-2B petitions USCIS can accept in a fiscal year.

At present, Immigration Services are limited to accepting 66,000 H-2B petitions a year – 33,000 for workers who intend to start working in the first half (October 1 – March 31), and the remaining 33,000 for workers who start working in the second half. H-2B visas that are not availed in the first half may be carried over into the second half, but those left over from the second half do not carry over into the next fiscal year.

H-2B applications that are not covered by the cap will continue regular processing. These include petitions from:

  • Current H-2B holders only seeking to extend their stay or changing their employers
  • Those involved in the fish roe industry either as a processor, technician, or supervisor
  • Workers in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands or Guam

Who Benefits from H-2B Visas?

The U.S. hospitality and restaurant industry is particularly dependent on H-2B workers, making it the industry that felt the brunt of the H-2B cap. Last summer, a number of inns and resorts in the country experienced a significant dip in profits that business owners attribute to the H-2B cap.

Guam took a blow after USCIS tightened its grip on the H-2B program, where the commonwealth’s H-2B inflow dropped from 1,500 a year to below 50 despite its need for thousands of foreign workers a year. This brought Congress to up Guam’s H-2B allowance to 4,000 a year.

If you want to learn more about the H-2B visa program, or want assistance on applying for a visa with your employer the H-2B program, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials.