H-2B visa cap met, nearly a month earlier than last year
- The cap on H-2B work visas for the first half of fiscal year 2018 was met on Dec. 15, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced Thursday. In last four years, the cap was met between Jan. 12 and March 15.
- Congress authorizes 66,000 visas per year for temporary foreign, non-agricultural workers under the program. Half are released for work during the first half of the fiscal year (Oct. 1 - March 31) and the remaining are reserved for the second half (April 1 - Sept. 30).
- USCIS is still accepting applications for the second half of FY2018 and also for those that are exempt from the cap. The latter includes current H-2B workers in the U.S. petitioning to extend their stay; those in the fish roe industry; and certain workers in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.
Many employers who rely on H-2B seasonal workers, especially business owners in the hospitality and restaurant industries, say they lost out economically this past summer when Congress refused to increase the number of visas available, as it has done in the past.
At employers' urging, the executive branch eventually added an extra 15,000 in July, but the business community said it was too little, too late.
With half the number of allotted visas now exhausted even earlier than last year — employers hit the cap for the first half of FY2017 on Jan. 12, 2017 — it's unclear what the second half of 2018 will bring. Last time, the cap for the second half of the year was hit on March 13, 2017.