The H2-B visa is a non-immigrant visa that has become an increasingly popular option for foreigners to come to the United States work in a number of retail and hospitality sectors. In 2022, the H2-B visa is especially important given the post-Covid economy and the labour shortage that is affecting many different sectors of the US economy. Earlier this week, the USCIS posted a new update with regard to the H2-B visa cap. It is fairly commonplace for the agency to make changes to the number of visa they will allow every fiscal year. The USCIS usually starts out with an annual cap, and then decides to increase this cap or keep it the same depending on the need for additional workers.
In consultation from the DHS and Secretary of Homeland Security, the agency makes a calculated decision for the number of additional visas they will allot at about the half way point of each fiscal year. In this post, we will discuss more closely what is going on with the H2-B visa cap, as well as cutoff dates and eligibility requirements for some applicants.
First off, the H2-B visa process has different rules for individuals who are pursuing this visa as a first time applicant who has never worked in the U.S. under this classification, and returning workers who have already been granted this visa in past years. There are two different caps for each category. In addition, the USCIS also has a special allotment of visas in this category for only individuals who are seeking this visa from El Salvador, Haiti, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Right now, the USCIS has received more than enough petitioners to fill their additional cap of 23,500 workers made for returning workers only. This is just one part of the additional 35,000 visas that were added to the cap earlier in the year. This means that if you filing under this category, or had a petition that was submitted after May 25th as a returning worker, the USCIS will be rejecting your petition. However, if you are a national from one of the above mentioned countries in Central America (or Caribbean), then the USCIS will continue to accept petitions for these workers under the separate 11,500 visa allotment (which has not been reached yet). Therefore if you are exempt from the returning worker requirement, you can continue to file a petition until September 15th, 2022, or until the cap is reached.
In addition, the USCIS will continue to accept petitions for current H-2B workers petitioning to extend their stay or, if applicable, change the terms of their employment or change their employers. If you are unsure of whether or not your petition for a returning worker will be rejected by the USCIS, you should generally follow the guideline that all petitions were accepted if they were submitted within the window of May 19th, 2022 to May 25th.