The United States: Cap count update for H-2B non-immigrants

The H-2B program

The H-2B non-agricultural temporary worker program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs.

Click here for more information on the H-2B program.

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 FY – 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the FY (October 1 – March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the FY (April 1 – September 30). Any unused numbers from the first half of the FY will be available for employers seeking H-2B workers during the second half of the FY. However, unused H-2B numbers from one FY do not carry over into the next.

Workers who are exempt from the H-2B cap

Generally, workers in the United States with H-2B status who extend their stay, change employers or change the terms and conditions of their employment will not be subject to the cap. The spouse and children of H-2B workers classified as H-4 non-immigrants 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 and/or supervisors of fish roe processing
  • Workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam from November 28, 2009 until December 31, 2019
  • For FY 2016 only, workers identified as “returning workers” who were previously counted against the annual H-2B cap during FYs 2013, 2014 or 2015

Once the H-2B cap has been reached, USCIS may only accept petitions for H-2B workers who are exempt or not subject to the H-2B cap.

Fiscal year 2016 H-2B cap counts

The H-2B cap for FY 2016 is now open.

According to the USCIS chart, as of February 9, 2016, for the first half of FY 2016, USCIS had received filings on behalf of 31,948 H-2B beneficiaries. This number refers to the total number of beneficiaries for approved or pending petitions filed with USCIS that could potentially be counted towards the H-2B cap. The cap for each half year is 33,000. USCIS accepts filings to exceed the actual cap to allow for withdrawals, denials and approvals for which no visa is issued.

If the cap is not reached for the first half of the FY, USCIS will make those unused numbers available for use during the second half of the FY.

This summary was prepared using information obtained from USCIS.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.