- According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) won't issue H-2B visa certifications until Feb. 20 due an unprecedented surge in applications for temporary foreign, non-agricultural workers.
- USCIS says that with the high demand for H-2B visas, it could receive more applications than there are visas available for the second half of 2018.
- The agency is "maintaining a flexible approach" in handling the situation, it says, which could include randomly selecting petitions received on the final submission date to make sure H-2B visas are issued fairly and don't exceed the half-year cap of 33,000.
In December, the cap on H-2B visas had already been met between Jan. 12 and March 15 for the first half of fiscal 2018. And in January, an "unprecedented" number of H-2B applications, three-times higher than in January 2017, came through. The surge in applications year-over-year will likely continue as the talent shortage presses down on employers in every sector, especially food and hospitality.
Already, USCIS has had to change how it processes applications to cope with the influx of requests, but this story may hit its highest note in the summer. By June of last year, Congress hadn't extended the H-2B visa's returning worker exemption, which prompted many businesses that depend on seasonal foreign workers to threaten closure. A similar issue could occur again this year.