On March 29, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security indicated plans to release an additional 30,000 visas in the H-2B category. The H-2B visa program, designed for temporary non-agricultural work, is capped out at 66,000 visas per year. The first 33,000 visas are released in the first half of the fiscal year on October 1, and 33,000 are released in the second half of the fiscal year on April 1. This year, the Department of Labor identified 97,000+ applicants for the April 1 start date. So, this announcement comes as good news to the H-2B community, many of whom were shut out of the ability to obtain visas for their workforce due to the high volume of applicants.
Secretary Nielsen made this decision in consultation with the Department of Labor Secretary following congressional authorization for the release of up to 69,000+ visas in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (Division H, Section 105).
While USCIS has not made an official announcement detailing the process by which employers can file for their workers, they have indicated these visas will only be open to workers who have had an H-2B visa in 2016, 2017, or 2018. Expect an announcement in the next few days. Green and Spiegel will continue to keep you updated as well. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.