Current Cap Count for Non-Immigrant Worker Visas for Fiscal Year 2008

What is a “Cap”?

The word “Cap” refers to annual numerical limitations set by Congress on the numbers of workers authorized to be admitted on different types of visas or authorized to change status if already in the United States.


Established by the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT 90), the H-1B nonimmigrant visa category allows U.S. employers to augment the existing labor force with highly skilled temporary workers. H-1B workers are admitted to the United States for an initial period of three years, which may be extended for an additional three years. The H-1B visa program is utilized by some U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in a specialized field. Typical H-1B occupations include architects, engineers, computer programmers, accountants, doctors and college professors. The H-1B visa program also includes fashion models. The current annual cap on the H-1B category is 65,000.

H-1B Advanced Degree Exemption

The H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004, which took effect on May 5, 2005, changed the H-1B filing procedures for FY 2005 and for future fiscal years. The H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004 also makes available 20,000 new H-1B visas for foreign workers with a Master’s or higher level degree from a U.S. academic institution.

Cap Beneficiaries Approved Beneficiaries Pending Petitions Receipted Beneficiaries Pending Petitions yet to be Receipted Total Date of Last Count
H-1B (FY 08) 58,200 1 —— —— —— Cap Reached 4/2/2007
H-1B Advanced Degree Exemption (FY 08) 20,000 —— —— —— Cap Reached 4/30/2007

1 6,800 visas are set aside during the fiscal year for the H-1B1 program under the terms of the legislation implementing the U.S.-Chile and U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreements. Unused numbers in this pool can be made available for H-1B use with start dates beginning on October 1, 2007, the start of FY 2008. USCIS has added 5,800, the projected number of unused H-1B1 Chile/Singapore visas to the FY 2008 H-1B cap.


An H-1B1 is a national of Chile or Singapore coming to the Unites States to work temporarily in a specialty occupation. The law defines specialty occupation as a job that requires a bachelor’s degree or higher. The beneficiary must have a bachelor’s degree relating to the job offer. The combined statutory limit is 6,800 per year. The projected number of 5,800 unused H-1B1 visas for FY 2008 was incorporated and applied to the FY 2008 H-1B cap.


The H-2B visa category allows U.S. employers in industries with peak load, seasonal or intermittent needs to augment their existing labor force with temporary workers. The H-2B visa category also allows U.S. employers to augment their existing labor force when necessary due to a one-time occurrence which necessitates a temporary increase in workers. Typically, H-2B workers fill labor needs in occupational areas such as construction, health care, landscaping, lumber, manufacturing, food service/processing, and resort/hospitality services.

On April 1, 2006, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting additional petitions for H-2B workers as required by the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2005 (SOS Act). The SOS Act allowed USCIS to accept filings beginning April 1, 2006 for workers seeking work start dates as early as October 1, 2006. Although USCIS regulations allow for filings 6 months in advance, H-2B petitioners first must obtain a temporary labor certification from the Department of Labor (DOL). DOL regulations stipulate that the application for temporary labor certification may not be files more than 120 days in advance of the need the the employee to ensure the accuracy of the labor market test.

What is the H-2B numerical limit set by Congress?

The H-2B numerical limit set by Congress per fiscal year is 66,000. However, aliens who are eligible for H-2B status as “returning workers” do not count against the annual numerical cap. USCIS notes that the “returning worker” provisions of the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2005 (SOS Act) have been extended until September 30, 2007, which marks the end of FY 2007.

For FY 2007 all “returning workers,” means workers who counted against the H-2B annual numerical limit of 66,000 during any one of the three fiscal years preceding the fiscal year of the requested start date. This means that for a petition with a work start date after October 1, 2006 (FY 2007), the worker must have been previously approved for an H-2B work start date between October 1, 2003 and September 30, 2006.

If a petition was approved only for “extension of stay” in H-2B status, or only for change or addition of employers or a change in the terms of employment, the worker was not counted against the numerical limit at that time and, therefore, that particular approval cannot in itself result in the worker being considered a “returning worker” in a new petition. Any worker not certified as a “returning worker” will be subject to the numerical limitation for the relevant fiscal year.

Why does USCIS authorize more H-2B workers than the statutory limit?

Employers often decide after submitting an H-2B petition that the workers are no longer needed. In other instances, some aliens never appear at the consular post for their visa interview following petition approval. However, USCIS still processes these petitions (notification from employers that workers are no longer needed is rare) and sends the approved petitions to the Department of State (DOS) for consular processing. If the employers no longer request these workers, DOS will not issue visas for these workers. As a result, the number of potential H-2B workers authorized to work by USCIS will often exceed the actual number of visas issued based on petition approvals—the basis of the statutory limit. Another factor is that DOS denies some visa applications even though USCIS has approved petitions for these workers.

Cap Beneficiaries Approved —New Beneficiaries Pending—New Beneficiaries Target 1 Total Date of Last Count
H-2B 1st Half 33,000 —— —— —— Cap
2nd Half
33,000 2 —— —— —— Cap Reached 3/16/2007
H-2B Annual (FY 07 66,000 3 —— —— —— —— ——

1 Refers to the estimated numbers of beneficiary applications needed to reach a cap, with an allowance for withdrawals, denials and revocations.
2 A shortfall in the 1st half would be made up in the 2nd half.
3 Visas issued to 1st-time beneficiaries plus 1st-time beneficiaries changing status already in the United States.


The H-3 nonimmigrant visa category is for aliens who are coming temporarily to the U.S. to receive training (other than graduate medical education or training). The training may be provided by a business entity, academic, or vocational institute. The H-3 nonimmigrant visa category also includes aliens who are coming temporarily to the U.S. to participate in a special education training program for children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. There is a limit of 50 visas per fiscal year allocated to H-3 aliens participating in special education training