USCIS Reopens FY 2009 H-2B Petition Filing Period
On August 6, 2009, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reopened the fiscal year (FY) 2009 H-2B petition filing period and announced that it will immediately accept new H-2B petitions. The H-2B program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the U.S. to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs for which there is a shortage of available U.S. workers. Typically, H-2B workers fill labor needs in occupational areas such as education, construction, health care, landscaping, manufacturing, food service/processing, and resort/hospitality services.
Although on January 7, 2009, USCIS announced that it had accepted and approved a sufficient number of H-2B petitions to meet the congressionally mandated annual cap of 66,000, the Department of State received far fewer than expected requests for H-2B visas and, as a result, has issued only 40,640 H-2B visas for FY 2009 to date. This means that approximately 25,000 visas could go unused because they have not been granted. Because of the low visa issuance rate, USCIS is reopening the filing period to allow employers to file additional petitions for qualified H-2B temporary foreign nonagricultural workers.
The normal (non-premium processing) adjudication timeframe for H-2B petitions is 60 days. USCIS said it will make visa numbers available to petitions in the order in which the petitions are filed. However, because H-2B petitions (Forms I-129) for FY 2009 visas must be received, evaluated, and adjudicated by the FY 2009 deadline of September 30, 2009, USCIS said it cannot guarantee approval of any H-2B petition by that date. The agency therefore encourages employers to file as soon as possible and to request premium processing by filing a Form I-907 and submitting the $1,000 premium processing fee, which will allow for expedited adjudication.
- The USCIS notice, which includes instructions on how to qualify for a FY 2009 H-2B cap number, is available as PDF
- A related Q&A is available as PDF
- Information on how to use premium processing service is available here
- A USCIS guide to hiring a foreign national for short-term employment in the U.S. is available as PDF.