Felicia Persaud (26512)
Felicia Persaud

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Labor (DOL), and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last week announced the availability of more H-2B visas, and the initial registration cap period for fiscal year 2023 of H-1B visas.

H-2B are temporary non-agricultural worker visas. The DHS and DOL says an additional 20,000 are now available for the first half of this fiscal year.

This supplemental cap increase comes at a time of record job growth and reduced labor force participation, marking the first time that DHS is making additional H-2B visas available in the first half of the fiscal year.

So how can they be accessed? These visas are for U.S. employers that are facing irreparable harm without additional workers and seeking to employ additional workers on or before March 31, 2022. The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States.

The supplemental H-2B visa allocation consists of 13,500 visas that are available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa, or were otherwise granted H-2B status, during one of the last three fiscal years.

The remaining 6,500 visas, which are exempt from the returning worker requirement, are reserved for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The employment must be for a limited period of time, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal, or intermittent need. Employers seeking to hire H-2B workers must take a series of steps with the U.S. labor market.

They must also provide certification from the Department of Labor that proves there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work for which they seek a prospective foreign worker, and that employing the H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. Additional details on these safeguards, and on eligibility and filing requirements, will be available in the temporary final rule and the Cap Count for H-2B Nonimmigrants at the uscis.gov. webpage.

The additional H-2B visas will become available to employers on Jan. 28, 2022.

Meanwhile, the U.S. CIS has announced that the initial registration period for the fiscal year 2023 H-1B cap will open at noon Eastern on March 1, and run through noon Eastern on March 18, 2022.

The H-1B program allows companies and other employers in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations may include fields such as architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts.

During this period, prospective petitioners and representatives will be able to complete and submit their registrations using the agency’s online H-1B registration system.

USCIS will assign a confirmation number to each registration submitted for the FY 2023 H-1B cap. This number is used solely to track registrations and no applicant can use this number to track case status in the Case Status Online.

Prospective H-1B cap-subject petitioners or their representatives are required to use a myUSCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee for each registration submitted on behalf of each beneficiary.

Prospective petitioners submitting their own registrations—U.S. employers and U.S. agents—will use a “registrant” account. Registrants will be able to create new accounts beginning at noon Eastern on Feb. 21.

Representatives may add clients to their accounts at any time, but both representatives and registrants must wait until March 1 to enter beneficiary information and submit the registration with the $10 fee.

In addition to the base filing fee, you may need to pay one of the following fees for a petition subject to the cap:

American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) fee:
$750 for employers with one to 25 full-time equivalent employees, unless exempt; $1,500 for employers with 26 or more full-time equivalent employees, unless exempt.
Prospective petitioners or their representatives will be able to submit registrations for multiple beneficiaries in a single online session. Through the account, they will be able to prepare, edit, and store draft registrations prior to final payment and submission of each registration.

If USCIS receives enough registrations by March 18, they will randomly select registrations and send selection notifications via users’ myUSCIS online accounts. The agency says it intends to notify account holders by March 31.

An H-1B cap-subject petition, including a petition for a beneficiary who is eligible for the advanced degree exemption, may only be filed by a petitioner whose registration for the beneficiary named in the H-1B petition was selected in the H-1B registration process.

The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.

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