H-2B Cap

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.

Unused H-2B numbers from one fiscal year do not carry over into the next.

Workers Who Are Exempt from the H-2B Cap

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.

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, 2019.

Note that the “returning worker” program expired on September 30, 2016. Persons who were designated by employers as potential returning workers, if they are otherwise subject to the cap, will be counted against the cap.

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 2017 H-2B Cap Count

On March 16, 2017, USCIS announced that it has received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for FY 2017.

March 13, 2017 is the “final receipt date” for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting employment start dates before October 1, 2017.

The “final receipt date” is the date on which USCIS determines that it has received enough cap-subject petitions to reach the limit of 66,000 H-2B workers for FY 2017.