Are You Exempt from the Mandated H-2B Cap?

Certain Illinois workers and employers may be exempt from the mandatory cap on H-2B visas, allowing them to secure the visas even if the caps have been met for the year. Congress has established a mandatory cap of 66,000 H-2B visas for each year. Of those visas, 33,000 are allocated for positions that start during the first half of the year while the remaining 33,000 are allocated for jobs that begin during the second half. If workers and employers qualify for an exemption, they may secure these visas regardless of whether the annual cap has already been met.

The H-2B Cap

The mandatory limit on the number of H-2B visas that can be issued each year is 66,000. This includes 33,000 visas that are reserved for the first half of the year, which runs from Oct. 1 to March 31st, and 33,000 for positions that begin during the second half, which runs from April 1 to Sept. 30. Visas not used in the first half of the year can be carried over to the second half of the year. If the total annual number of H-2B visas are not used, the numbers do not carry over to subsequent fiscal years. The caps are often met for each half of the fiscal year long before terms are over because of the limited number of visas available.

Exemptions to the H-2B Cap

There are some exemptions to the H2-B cap for certain types of workers. H-2B workers who are already working in the U.S. and who want to petition to stay and work longer are exempt from the H-2B cap. They are also able to petition to change their jobs or the terms of them. Laborers who will work in Guam or in the Commonwealth of Mariana have an exemption from the mandatory cap until Dec. 31, 2019. People who work in the fish roe processing industry as supervisors, processors or technicians are also exempt from the annual H-2B caps and are thus able to apply for the visas even if the cap numbers have been met for the fiscal year. Businesses that need H-2B workers should file their petitions early so they increase their likelihood of getting the workers they need for the year.