Effective December 18, 2015, H-2B workers identified as “returning workers” are exempted from the fiscal year (FY) 2016 annual H-2B cap of 66,000 visas. See Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) §214(g)(9)(a), 8 U.S.C. 1184(g)(9)(a), as revised by Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (Public Law 114-113).
A returning worker is defined as an H-2B worker who was previously counted against the annual H-2B cap of 66,000 visas during FYs 2013, 2014, or 2015. This means:
- In general, if you (the employer) submit a petition requesting an employment start date in FY 2016 (from October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016) for an H-2B worker, the H-2B worker can only be considered a returning worker if he or she had been previously issued an H-2B visa or provided H-2B status between October 1, 2012, and September 30, 2015.
- If the prospective worker is in the United States in H-2B status, and is seeking to extend his or her stay, change employers, or change the terms and conditions of employment, then the worker would not be counted toward the H-2B cap and you would not need to request that the person be classified as a returning worker.
Any prospective H-2B worker who does not qualify as a returning worker will be subject to the FY 2016 H-2B cap unless he or she has previously been counted toward the H-2B cap or is cap-exempt.
Under this legislation, the returning worker program only applies to petitions pending or approved on or after December 18, 2015, requesting named H-2B workers with an employment start date beginning in FY 2016.