USCIS announced that it had exhausted the supplemental allotment of 15,000 seasonal worker visas authorized by DHS in May 2018. USCIS received sufficient employer petitions seeking the supplemental allotment within 5 days of the opening of the filing window. Petitions to be adjudicated have been selected by lottery.
The supplemental allotment came about after substantial outcry from businesses over unavailability of prior year workers after in December 2017, Congress refused to extend a provision allowing prior year employees to be exempt from the 66,000 per year H-2b cap. In a widely reported example, the Maryland seafood industry claimed that it had lost 40% of its seasonal crab pickers as a result of the newly restrictive policy. Nearly half of the Eastern Shore crab houses did not have workers to pick the meat sold in restaurants and stores due to the visa demand.
Absent reinstatement of the lapsed grandfathered worker exemption, it is likely that U.S. employers will continue to demand supplemental H-2B allotments in future years.