H-2B visa cap met, significant fee increase proposed

The visa program met its cap for the first half of the fiscal year and USCIS proposed a significant fee increase for the program.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Washington, D.C., reached the cap for the additional 18,216 H-2B visas it made available for the first half of fiscal year 2023.

The visas were included as a part of a final rule package USCIS published in mid-December 2022 which included a total of 64,716 additional visas. However, 44,716 were available only for returning workers.

With the cap now met, USCIS advises those still looking for labor to apply using the remaining 20,000 visas set aside for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, who are exempt from the returning worker requirement.

In addition to the cap being met, the Department of Homeland Security’s USCIS also published a proposed rule to significantly increase fees and make changes to certain other immigration benefit request requirements.

The fee increase for the H-2B program would raise the total cost to file a named H-2B application to $1,680 for named workers and $1,180 for unnamed workers. The change would effectively triple the current fee. There is also an added $600 charge for employers seeking to take advantage of the asylum program offered within the visa program.

“The proposed fee increases would make the program even more burdensome and cost-prohibitive for irrigation contractors and others who rely on it to meet seasonal demand for their businesses,” says Irrigation Association Advocacy Director Nathan Bowen.

The biggest concern regarding the fee, Bowen says, is the potential that organizations would be charged for every action taken on an I-129 form, which is a petition for a non-immigrant worker.

For contractors, that could add up over a possible three or four times per year, Bowen says.

The Irrigation Association along with other several other industry organizations are currently engaging the USCIS to express the impact the fee increases could have on businesses.

Comments on the USCIS fee proposal increase are due March 6. The full proposal can be viewed here.

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