On January 31, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced that it has received enough petitions to fill the 18,216 additional H-2B visas made available for returning workers for the first half of fiscal year 2023. Cap-subject H-2B petitions requesting employment dates prior to April 1, 2023 for returning workers will now be rejected by USCIS.
USCIS continues to accept H-2B petitions under the following qualifications:
- Petitions for workers filing under the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras) and Haiti visa cap allotment. As of the date of this announcement, 15,740 visas remain available under this category for fiscal year 2023;
- Change of employer petitions with request to extend stay in H-2B status (cap exempt);
- Out-of-country petitions for H-2B workers who have already been counted against the H-2B Congressional limit for FY2023;
- Petitions for workers in the fish roe processing industry and labor services in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands or Guam.
USCIS is also currently accepting Cap subject petitions for employment dates of April 1, 2023 and later (second half of fiscal year 2023). We anticipate that the second Cap of the year will be reached around the end of February if Department of Labor H-2B Temporary Labor Certification processing times remain consistent with 2022. On December 15, 2022, USCIS announced the second set of supplemental visas (16,500) will become available to returning H-2B workers 15 days after the second fiscal year cap is reached. Employers with starts dates of April 1 through May 14 will be able to apply under the second supplemental allotment likely around mid-March. A third set of supplemental visas (10,000) will also become available to returning H-2B workers 45 days after the second fiscal year cap is reached. This third allotment will only be available to employers with starts dates of May 15, 2023 through September 30, 2023.
This announcement is encouraging news for Employers seeking to petition for workers from the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras) and Haiti. Under this allotment, only 4,260 of the available 20,000 visas are currently used. We encourage employers to consider recruiting workers from the Northern Triangle and Haiti. For employers who have an April 1st start date with later group assignment (Groups D, E, F, G) and employers with start dates between May 1 and May 14, the Northern Triangle and Haiti visa allocation may be the only way to secure out of country workers this year. Recruitment of in country H-2B workers also remains a good option for this group of employers.
We will provide further guidance as soon as the second H-2B fiscal year cap is reached.