What is the H-2B Program?
The H2-B allows American employers or agencies that meet certain criteria to bring foreign nationals into the country on a work visa to fill specific types of positions. People who come into the U.S. on an H-2B visa are usually employed in temporary, non-agricultural jobs.
Limit on the H-2B Visas
The United States government has put a limit, or a "cap," on how many people can come into the country on an H-2B visa during a fiscal year. The H-2B visas are limited to 66,000 for fiscal year (FY) 2017. Even more, half of the visas will be issued during the first half of the fiscal year, and the remaining will be issued in the second half. If not all 33,000 visas were issued during the first half of the year, the remainder will be carried over to the second half. The fiscal year runs from October 1 - September 30. Be advised that any unissued visas for the FY2017 will not carry over to FY2018.
Exemptions from the H-2B Cap
Employees who are already in the United States who are staying longer, changing jobs, or have had a change in job conditions are exempt from the H-2B cap. Employees who have already been counted toward the limit will be exempt in the same fiscal year if their employer names them and signifies on the paperwork that they have already been counted. Also, family members, such as spouses and children, who are categorized as H-4 are exempt from the cap.
Applications for fish roe workers and employees providing labor in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands or Guam are also exempt from the H-2B limitations.
In the FY2017, the "returning worker" program expired. This means that employees reported as potentially returning by employers are no longer exempt from the H-2B cap and will be counted as such.
What Happens Once the H-2B Limit is Reached
Once the H-2B limit has been reached in each fiscal half, then the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will only entertain applications from employees who are not counted against the H-2B cap. So far, 23,257 employees have been counted for the first half of FY2017, with 7,650 applications pending.
Find Out if You're Counted Toward the H-2B Cap
Sintsirmas & Mueller Co L.P.A., our Cleveland immigration attorneys, can help you determine if you are either eligible for or exempt from an H-2B nonimmigrant work visa. For more information on how our team can assist you, please visit us online or call our office at (888) 491-8770.