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Cap Count for H-2B Nonimmigrants

The H-2B Program

The H-2B non-agricultural temporary worker program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs.

For more information about the H-2B program, see the link "H-2B Non-Agricultural Workers."

What is the H-2B Cap?

There is a statutory numerical limit, or "cap," on the total number of foreign nationals who may be issued an H-2B visa or otherwise granted H-2B status during a fiscal year (FY). 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). Any unused numbers from the first half of the fiscal year will be available for employers seeking to hire H-2B workers during the second half of the fiscal year. However, unused H-2B numbers from one fiscal year do not carry over into the next.

UPDATE: USCIS Reaches H-2B Cap for the Second Half of Fiscal Year 2015

On June 5, 2015, USCIS announced that it had reopened the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the second half of FY 2015. USCIS has received a sufficient number of petitions to reach that cap. June 11, 2015 was the final receipt date for new H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before October 1, 2015. The final receipt date is the date when USCIS received enough cap-subject petitions to reach the limit of 66,000 H-2B workers for FY 2015.

What Happens After Reaching the Cap

USCIS will reject new H-2B petitions that:

  • Request an employment start date before October 1, 2015; and
  • Were received after June 11, 2015

Workers Who Are Exempt from the H-2B Cap

USCIS will continue to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap. These include the following types of petitions:

  • H-2B workers in the United States or abroad who have been previously counted towards the cap in the same fiscal year;
  • Current H-2B workers seeking an extension of stay;
  • Current H-2B workers seeking a change of employer or terms of employment;
  • Fish roe processors, fish roe technicians and/or supervisors of fish roe processing; and
  • H-2B workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam until December 31, 2019.

Additionally, the spouse and children of H-2B workers classified as H-4 nonimmigrants are not counted against this cap.

FY 2016 H-2B Cap Petitions

USCIS will consider H-2B petitions received on or after October 1, 2015, and/or requesting an employment start date on or after October 1, 2015, towards the FY 2016 H-2B cap.  These petitions will be subject to all eligibility requirements for FY 2016 H-2B cap filings. 

Last Reviewed/Updated: 06/15/2015