During the first five business days after February 21, 2018, when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began receiving H-2B cap-subject petitions for the second half of fiscal year 2018, the agency received approximately 2,700 H-2B cap-subject petitions requesting approximately 47,000 workers. This was more than the number of H-2B visas available. As a result, USCIS conducted a lottery to randomly select enough petitions to meet the cap. USCIS said it will reject and return petitions and associated filing fees to petitioners that were not selected, as well as any cap-subject petitions received after February 27.
USCIS noted that in January, the Department of Labor announced a change to its process of issuing labor certifications. As a result, on February 7, USCIS advised of the likely need to conduct an H-2B visa lottery for the second half of FY 2018. As was noted in February, USCIS said it would maintain a flexible approach to this issue by ensuring that H-2B visas were allocated fairly and would not exceed the cap.
USCIS said it continues to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from, or not counted toward, the congressionally mandated cap. This includes petitions for:
- Current H-2B workers in the United States seeking to extend their stay and, if applicable, change the terms of their employment or change their employers;
- Fish roe processors, fish roe technicians, and/or supervisors of fish roe processing; and
- Workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam, until December 31, 2019.
USCIS said H-2B petitioners may continue to request premium processing with their H-2B petitions. However, because the final receipt date was one of the first five business days of the filing season, petitions accepted in the lottery will be given a receipt date of March 1, 2018. Premium processing service for these petitions began on that receipt date, USCIS said.
U.S. businesses use the H-2B program to employ foreign workers for temporary nonagricultural jobs. 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 and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year.