Recent Changes Made to H-2A & H-2B Visa Programs

USCIS recently announced new changes to the H-2A and H-2B visa programs that will both expand applicant eligibility for these programs and allow more international workers to enter or stay in the United States.

H-2A and H-2 visa programs allow foreign nationals to come to the United States to work in temporary or seasonal agricultural and nonagricultural jobs.

Additional 16 Countries Now Eligible for H-2A & H-2B Visa

The newly added 16 countries whose citizens are now eligible to apply for H-2A and H-2B visas include Andorra, Belgium, Brunei, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan, and Timor-Leste. Workers form these countries are eligible to apply for this year’s H-2A and H-2B Visa programs, raising the number of countries eligible for these programs to 83. However, nationals of Moldova are no longer eligible for the H-2B program but may still participate in the H-2A program.

H-2B Returning Workers Exempt from H-2B Cap

As a result of the Ominous Spending Bill passed by Congress on December 18, 2016, USCIS announced that H-2B workers identified as “returning workers” are exempted from the fiscal year (FY) 2016 cap of 66,000 visas, which significantly increases the opportunity for foreign workers to enter the United States.

The H-2B cap, or the number of foreign nationals that may be issued an H-2B visa in a fiscal year, is divided into two periods: 33,000 visas for workers whose employment begins in the first half of the fiscal year and 33,000 for those who begin in the second half.

Following USCIS’ announcement, H-2B returning workers are now exempt from this cap. Returning workers are those who were previously counted against the annual H-2B cap during the fiscal years of 2013, 2014, and 2015. In order to be eligible for the H-2B cap exemption, returning workers must have been previously issued an H-2B visa or have held H-2B status between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2015.

Petitioning employers of H-2B returning workers must complete and include the H-2B Returning Worker Certification with their application.

Visit the USCIS website for more information about the H-2B Cap Count.