The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the H-2B quota for fiscal year 2008 (October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008) was met on January 2, 2008. The H-2B quota is divided between the first and second-half of the government’s fiscal year. The H-2B cap for the first-half of fiscal year 2008 (October 1, 2007 through March 30, 2008) was met on September 24, 2007. The H- 2B cap for the second-half of fiscal year 2008 (April 1, 2008 through September 30, 2008) was met on January 2, 2008. H-2B petitions which were received on January 2, 2008 will be subject to a random selection process to select the remaining number of petitions needed to meet the H-2B cap. The USCIS will reject any H-2B petitions received on or after January 3, 2008 that contain a start date prior to October 1, 2008.

This year’s H-2B quota was met in record time due to the fact that Congress did not pass legislation extending the Returning Worker exemption to the H-2B quota. This exemption allowed H-2B workers to be exempted from the H-2B quota if they previously worked in the United States in H-2B status during at least one of the past three years. This exemption expired on September 30, 2007. Although numerous employers and trade groups including but not limited to the hospitality, landscaping, construction and seafood processing industries lobbied Congress to extend this very limited exemption to the H-2B quota, Congress failed to pass legislation extending this apparently noncontroversial provision. If Congress passes an extension of this exemption prior to October 1, 2008, the USCIS could continue to accept H-2B petitions for qualified H-2B Returning Workers. However, at this time, the prospects that such legislation will be passed may not be promising.

Additional information about legislation extending the Returning Worker exemption to the H-2B quota will be contained in our firm’s future Immigration Updates when it becomes available.