Last week, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will begin accepting H-1B petitions for the federal fiscal year 2016 starting on April 1, 2015. It expects the H-1B cap to fill in the first five business days of April. This projection is based on the 172,500 cap-subject filings made in the first five days of April 2014.
The H-1B cap, or annual allocation of new H-1B visas available to employers who are not cap-exempt, consists of two separate pools. The regular cap is open to all employers seeking H-1Bs for workers with either a bachelor’s or advanced degree and is limited to 65,000 visas. An additional 20,000 are designated for employers filing for workers with an advanced or professional degree.
USCIS will place all petitions received on the first five business days of April into the appropriate cap pool. A lottery first selects for the 20,000 slots in the advanced-degree cap. The petitions which were not selected are added to the regular-cap pool. A second lottery then selects 65,000 regular-cap petitions for processing. USCIS processes these 85,000 petitions and issues H-1B visas which will be effective October 1, 2015.
All other petitions, including those not selected in either lottery and those which arrived after the filing window closes, are returned to the petitioner. Beneficiaries of these petitions continue to be work-authorized until notice of rejection is received or their non-H-1B work authorizations expire, whichever occurs later. Then they must either find another means of remaining in the U.S. or leave the indefinitely.
According to MSEC’s calculation, the odds of success in the 2014 advanced-degree cap lottery was about 75 percent and the odds in the 2014 regular cap were just under 50 percent. While immigration reform proposals address this issue by raising the H-1B cap numbers, none of these proposals has yet become law.