First-Round FY 2019 H-2B Cap Reached with Unprecedented Number of Second-Round Filings


On December 12, 2019, USCIS announced that it had received enough H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker petitions to fill the congressionally mandated cap of 33,000 maximum visas for the first half of the federal government’s 2019 fiscal year. According to USCIS, the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B non-agricultural worker petitions was December 6, 2018. All cap-subject H-2B petitions received after that date will be rejected by USCIS and returned to petitioners. Since, by December 6th, it was determined that the number of petitions received far surpassed the total number of H-2B visas available for the period, a computer-generated electronic lottery process was undertaken on December 11, 2018 for all petitions received on December 6th, the cut-off date. This particular cap applies only to all H-2B petitions with start dates of employment prior to April 1, 2019.

USCIS continues to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap, such as petitions for extensions of stay or change of employers for current H-2B workers, certain fish roe processors and technicians, and H-2B workers performing services in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam.

Employers may still petition for H-2B temporary nonagricultural workers with start dates of employment for the second half of the fiscal year, i.e., between April 1, 2019 and September 30, 2019. However, ability to file second-round H-2B’s is in a state of chaos at the moment. On January 1, 2019, the electronic filing system administered by the Department of Labor crashed due an unprecedented usage when 97,800 H-2B applications were submitted in the first 5 minutes of the second-round filing season which opened on 12:01 EST on January 1st.

See USCIS announcement at:

Read about havoc on the Icert Electronic submission website at:

For more on the H-2B nonagricultural worker program see: