US Citizenship and Immigration Services has received enough petitions to reach the congressionally mandated cap for the additional 16,500 H-2B visas made available for returning workers for the early second half of fiscal year 2023 for foreign workers starting April 1 to May 14, the agency announced Friday.

USCIS continues to accept petitions for H-2B nonimmigrant workers for the additional 20,000 visas allotted for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Additionally, USCIS will continue to accept H-2B petitions for workers who are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap.

Covered employees could be employed as short-term personal care aides, nursing assistants and home health aides, among other positions.

In December, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor issued a temporary final rule that made available 64,716 additional H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for fiscal year 2023. Previously, Congress had set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (Oct. 1 to March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 to Sept. 30). 

Starting April 13, USCIS will begin accepting petitions for workers for the late second half of the fiscal year for foreign workers starting between May 15 and September 30. The 10,000 visas made available under this allocation are limited to returning workers who were issued H-2B visas or held H-2B status in fiscal years 2020, 2021 or 2022, regardless of their country of nationality.

Long-term care industry advocates continually have pushed for immigration reform as a means of addressing the workforce shortages plaguing the field.

In a statement submitted to the Senate Health, Education, Pension & Labor Committee’s committee ahead of a late February hearing, LeadingAge called on members to support workforce policies that would “establish and retain a pipeline of foreign aging services workers, and support the enactment of a temporary guest worker program for aging services providers, and improve the process for allowing registered nurses to permanently enter the US.”

USCIS has proposed hiking H-1B registration application fees from $10 to $215 per beneficiary, which many have called a “dramatic” increase.“Increased fees take a toll on LTC communities that rely heavily on immigrants to care for their residents — yet the organizations themselves have limited funds and fixed government resources,” reads a letter signed in March by the American Health Care Association and LeadingAge, among other organizations. “Thus, we would ask USCIS to consider operational methods to save costs rather than increasing costs for the same level of service, as there is no indication that the proposed increased fees will improve service.”