Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on December 12 that it has reached the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the first half of fiscal year (FY) 2019. December 6, 2018, was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before April 1, 2019. USCIS will reject new cap-subject H-2B petitions received after December 6 that request an employment start date before April 1, 2019.
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).
Lottery required. On the December 6 deadline, the number of beneficiaries for which the agency had received petitions surpassed the total number of H-2B visas available for the H-2B cap for the first half of FY 2019. Thus, in accordance with regulations, USCIS determined it was necessary to use the computer-generated lottery system to ensure the fair and orderly allocation of H-2B visa numbers to meet, but not exceed, the cap.
On December 11, 2018, USCIS conducted a lottery to randomly select petitions received on December 6. As a result, USCIS assigned all petitions selected in the lottery the receipt date of December 11. Premium processing service for petitions selected in the lottery also began on that date.
Cap-exempt petitions. USCIS noted that it continues to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap, including the following types of petitions:
Workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam from November 28, 2009, until December 21, 2029.