U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has received enough petitions to meet the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the second half of fiscal year (FY) 2019. February 19, 2019 was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before October 1, 2019. USCIS will reject new cap-subject H-2B petitions received after Feb. 19 that request an employment start date before October 1, 2019.
On February 19, the number of beneficiaries USCIS received petitions for surpassed the total number of remaining H-2B visas available for the H-2B cap for the second half of FY 2019. In accordance with regulations, USCIS determined it was necessary to use a computer-generated process, commonly known as a lottery, to ensure the fair and orderly allocation of H-2B visa numbers to meet, but not exceed, the remainder of the FY 2019 cap. On February 21, USCIS conducted a lottery to randomly select petitions from those received on February 19. As a result, USCIS assigned all petitions selected in the lottery the receipt date of February 22. Premium processing service for petitions selected in the lottery also began on that date.
USCIS continues to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap. This includes petitions for:
- Current 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 labor or services in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam from November 28, 2009 until December 31, 2029.
U.S. businesses use the H-2B program to employ foreign workers for temporary nonagricultural 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 (October 1 - March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 - September 30) 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.