U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that

it 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 temporary nonagricultural worker petitions requesting an

employment start date before October 1, 2019. USCIS will reject new

cap-subject H-2B petitions received after February 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 said it determined that 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 H-2B 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 the Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam

    from November 28, 2009, until December 31, 2029.

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 and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the

second half of the fiscal year 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, USCIS


Also, a new letter sent on February 22, 2019, from the H-2B

Workforce Coalition urges the Department of Homeland Security to

add H-2B numbers as authorized by the Fiscal 2019 Consolidated

Appropriations Act. The 40-page letter, endorsed by hundreds of

employers and organizations, notes:

Without immediate action, many employers across the country will

be without the critical workforce they need to operate this spring

and summer. These businesses will not be able to fulfill contracts.

They will be forced to turn away customers and may need to lay off

American workers whose jobs are supported by H-2B workers. In some

cases, they will be compelled to shut down their operations

entirely. … The H-2B program is essential to employers who

cannot find local temporary workers to fill jobs in seafood

processing, horse training, hospitality and amusement parks,

forestry, landscaping, circuses, carnivals, food concessionaires,

swimming pool maintenance, golf courses, stone quarries and other

seasonal industries. These seasonal businesses need H-2B workers to

supplement their American workforce. The H-2B program relies on

well-vetted returning workers who come to the U.S. for seasonal

employment and then go home. These workers are not immigrants. They

provide an opportunity for U.S. businesses to operate at a greater

capacity, retain their full-time workers and contribute to their

local economy.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general

guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought

about your specific circumstances.

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