On January 10, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the H-2B visa cap for the first half of the 2017 fiscal year had been reached. Currently, the H-2B visa cap set by Congress is 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 - March 31) and 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 - September 30). Any unused visas from the first half of the fiscal year will be made available for use by employers seeking to hire H-2B workers during the second half of the fiscal year. However, there is no carry over to the next fiscal year.
This announcement does not impact any H-2B worker petitions received by the USCIS prior to January 10 or any employees with a start date of April 1, 2017, or later. As well, USCIS will continue to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap including current H-2B workers who are petitioning to extend their stays and, if applicable, change the terms of their employment or change their employers.
In FY2016, Congress had enacted the returning worker provision which exempted H-2B visa workers who had previously used the program to be exempt from the cap. However, Congress opted not to extend this provision for FY2017.