U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on February 22, 2019 that the 33,000 cap for seasonal non-agricultural H-2B work visas for the remainder of FY 2019 was reached on February 19th. Since the number of positions requested far exceeded the cap, USCIS conducted a lottery on February 21, 2019 to select the petitions to be processed. USCIS will return petitions received after February 19th or not selected in the lottery to their employers.
As MeBIC noted previously, the omnibus spending bill signed into law on February 15, 2019 would allow USCIS to issue over 100,000 additional H-2B visas to meet the demand for the remainder of FY 2019. But if history is any guide, the administration will likely decide to issue only another 15,000 visas beyond the cap, as happened in fiscal years 2017 and 2018. In any case, we don’t know when the administration will make its announcement of how many additional H-2B visas it will issue.
This year continues the trend of the H-2B spring/summer season cap being reached earlier each year. In FY 2018, it was reached on February 27th, in FY 2017 it was reached on March 13th. This year, H-2B petitions were filed for more than 97,000 seasonal positions within the first five minutes of the opening of the filing window.
Employers can still file petitions for cap-exempt H-2B positions. For more information on which positions are cap-exempt, go to this USCIS page.