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It is far too often that employers find themselves with the short-end-of-the-stick when it comes to their H-2B filings.


It’s more common than not to hit a roadblock based on the current number of H-2B visas being applied for, each year steadily hitting higher numbers than the last. There are currently several options for employers to secure employees outside of the initial 33,000 visa cap:


  • 20,000 visas have been issued for FY2024 from the NCA countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador, Columbia, Costa Rica, and Haiti (this is a great option for brand new employers to the program).
  • 19,000 returning worker visas. Meaning, the workers would have had to have held H-2B status within the past 3 years to qualify.
  • 5,000 returning worker visas for certified start dates of May 15th. 


However, while these options are available, the H-2B lottery still poses a huge obstacle for employers seeking to employ workers. Groups A-C (and some of D) will generally make it into the initial 33,000 or the 19,000 returning workers, but that leaves a majority of groups D-G to fight for the 5,000 returning worker visas for May 15th or rely on workers from NCA countries.


Employers that are veterans in the H-2B program will at some point in their H-2B filing career find themselves in less than favorable lottery groupings, capped out for the May 15th allocation, or find that NCA workers just aren’t a viable option as a substitute for their returning crew. There is one last option to exhaust if an employer has hit a wall with all of these options.


October 1st is the beginning of the new fiscal year and with that a new cap allotment. 33,000 visas open up for the 1st half of the H-2B cap on October 1st. The option to apply for October 1st is only if you’ve struck out with every other option for a spring start date. The strategy would involve applying for the remainder of the previously certified date from October 1st until your typical end date. For example, if you are a landscaper applying from 4/1-12/1 and were capped out for all options, you would apply for dates of 10/1-12/1. It is important to not change your end date because we do not want the Department of Labor to think we are applying outside of our previously certified season. 


The biggest perk to applying for a short season like this is that the workers that cross for October 1 are cap-exempt for the following spring, meaning regardless of an employer’s lottery grouping, they are able to bring their workers back no matter what.

LCI is well versed in this strategy and has exercised this option for our clients since the dissolution of the returning worker exemption.

If this is an option you are wishing to explore, please be sure to consult your account manager or agent to discuss how this strategy can benefit you.

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