Cap Count for H-2B Nonimmigrants

ALERT: On May 8, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) published a temporary final rule increasing the numerical limit (cap) on H-2B nonimmigrant visas by up to 30,000 additional visas through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2019. These visas are available only to American businesses which attest that they will likely suffer irreparable harm without the ability to employ all the H-2B workers requested in their petition. In addition, these visas are available only for returning workers (workers who received an H-2B visa or otherwise received granted H-2B status in one of the last three fiscal years). Starting May 8, eligible petitioners can file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, seeking these additional H-2B workers and must submit a supplemental attestation on Form ETA 9142-B-CAA-3 (PDF) with their petition. Details on eligibility and filing requirements are available in the final rule and on the Increase in H-2B Nonimmigrant Visas for FY 2019 page.

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 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 (Oct. 1 - March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – Sept. 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.

Reporting H-2B Fraud

To report that a participating employer may be abusing the H-2B program, please email us at ReportH2BAbuse@uscis.dhs.gov. Your email should include information identifying the H-2B petitioning employer and relevant information that leads you to believe that the H-2B petitioning employer is abusing the H-2B program.

Workers Who Are Exempt from the H-2B Cap

Generally, workers in the United States in H-2B status who extend their stay, change employers, or change the terms and conditions of employment will not be subject to the cap. Similarly, H-2B workers who have previously been counted against the cap in the same fiscal year that the proposed employment begins will not be subject to the cap if the employer names the workers on the petition and indicates that they have already been counted. The spouse and children of H-2B workers classified as H-4 nonimmigrants are also not counted against this cap.

Additionally, petitions for the following types of workers are exempt from the H-2B cap:

  • Fish roe processors, fish roe technicians, or supervisors of fish roe processing;
  • Workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands or Guam from November 28, 2009, until December 31, 2029.

Once the H-2B cap is reached, USCIS may only accept petitions for H-2B workers who are exempt or not subject to the H-2B cap.

Fiscal Year 2019 H-2B Cap Count

On Feb. 19, 2019, USCIS received enough petitions to meet the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the second half of FY 2019. Feb. 19 is the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting employment start dates before Oct. 1, 2019. The final receipt date is the date on which USCIS determines that it has received enough cap-subject petitions to reach the limit of H-2B workers for FY 2019.

The number of beneficiaries USCIS received petitions for surpassed the total number of H-2B visas available for the H-2B cap for 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 cap for FY 2019. On Feb. 21, USCIS conducted a lottery to randomly select the petitions from those received on Feb. 19. As a result, USCIS assigned all petitions selected in the lottery the receipt date of Feb. 22. Premium processing service for petitions selected in the lottery also began on that date.

Cap Type

Cap Amount

Beneficiaries Approved Beneficiaries Pending

Total Beneficiaries1

Date of Last Count

H-2B:

First Half

of FY 2019

33,000

    On Dec. 6, 2018, the cap for the 1st half of FY 2019 was reached.

12/11/2018

H-2B:

Second Half

of FY 2019

33,0002

 

 

On Feb. 19, 2019, the cap for the second half of FY 2019 was reached.

02/22/2019

1 Refers to the total number of beneficiaries of approved or pending petitions filed with USCIS that could potentially be counted towards the H-2B cap. This number will typically exceed the actual cap to allow for withdrawals, denials, and approvals for which no visa is issued.

2 If the cap is not reached for the first half of the fiscal year, USCIS will make those unused numbers available for use during the second half of the fiscal year.

Last Reviewed/Updated: