On July 19, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), along with the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”), published a final rule increasing the number of H-2B visas available for the 2017 fiscal year by 15,000 visas. H-2B visas are non-immigrant visas which allow United States businesses to hire non-agricultural workers for temporary or seasonal employment. Currently, there is a statutory limit of 66,000 H-2B visas (33,000 visas for the first half of the year, and 33,000 visas for the second half of the year) which can be issued each fiscal year. Certain H-2B workers are exempt from the cap such as workers who change employers or extend their employment.
As part of the FY 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act passed by Congress, DHS Secretary John Kelly was given the authority to increase the number of H-2B visas to be issued during the 2017 fiscal year. On July 19, it was announced that an additional 15,000 H-2B visas (on top of the 66,000 visas already allotted) would be issued. In order for businesses to take advantage of these additional H-2B visas, there are several stipulations.
First, like all H-2B petitions subject to the cap, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will review petitions for these 15,000 visas on a first come first served basis. Because there is a high demand for H-2B visas, employers looking to hire H-2B workers should get their application into USCIS as soon as possible.