Jun 03 2021

USCIS Reaches FY 2021 H-2B Cap for Additional Returning Workers; Continues to Accept Filings for Northern Triangle Nationals Until July 8

United States

At a glance

  • USCIS has received enough FY 2021 H-2B petitions to reach the 16,000 supplemental cap for returning workers. Returning worker H-2B petitions received after June 1, 2021 will be rejected.
  • The agency continues to accept H-2B filings for Northern Triangle country (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) nationals until July 8, 2021.

A closer look

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has received enough petitions to reach the cap for the additional 16,000 H-2B visas made available for returning workers only, the agency announced today. However, USCIS continues to accept H-2B nonimmigrant petitions for the additional 6,000 visas allotted for nationals of Northern Triangle countries (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) regardless of whether they previously held H-2B status.


On May 25, USCIS began accepting H-2B petitions under a temporary final rule that increased the fiscal year (FY) 2021 cap by up to 22,000 additional H-2B nonimmigrant visas. Of the 22,000 additional visas, 16,000 were available only to returning workers who previously held H-2B status. The remaining 6,000 visas are initially set aside for nationals from the Northern Triangle countries, who do not need to meet the returning worker requirement.

H-2B lottery under the returning worker cap

In the first five business days of filing, USCIS received petitions for more beneficiaries than the additional 16,000 visas made available for H-2B returning workers. The agency randomly selected petitions to meet the 16,000 returning worker limit, considering all returning worker petitions received by the agency between May 25 and June 1. USCIS will reject any cap-subject petitions for H-2B returning workers (not including those filed under the Northern Triangle allotment) received after June 1.

H-2B petitions for nationals from Northern Triangle countries

USCIS will continue to accept H-2B petitions for Northern Triangle nationals until July 8, 2021. The agency encourages petitioners whose workers were not selected for the 16,000 returning worker allotment to refile for workers from the Northern Triangle countries while H-2B visas for that group remain available. If fewer than 6,000 beneficiaries are requested, USCIS will announce by July 23, 2021, that the remaining H-2B visa numbers will be made available to beneficiaries regardless of nationality, subject to the returning worker limitation.

What this means for employers

Employers with FY 2021 H-2B employment needs should identify Northern Triangle H-2B cases and work with their immigration counsel to submit petitions as soon as possible before the remaining cap numbers are exhausted. Additional visas will not be available in future years unless a similar supplement is authorized.

USCIS will also continue to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap. This includes petitions for current H-2B workers in the United States petitioning to extend their stay and change the terms of their employment or change their employers; among others.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.