It is H-1B Cap Season again. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) just held lotteries on April 9 for both the standard and advanced degree H-1B visa caps for fiscal year (FY) 2017, with a work start date of October 1, 2016.
Employers filed roughly 236,000 petitions for H-1B guest worker visas, setting a new record. USCIS received 233,000 petitions in 2015, 172,500 in 2014, and 124,000 in 2013.
There is a congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 H-1B visas (the “regular cap”) in addition to a cap of 20,000 H-1B visas filed under the advanced degree (“master’s cap”) exemption. USCIS received more than enough petitions to meet both caps during the first five business days of the filing period, which began April 1, triggering a computer-generated random selection process.
USCIS randomly selected 20,000 advanced degree petitions first, and unselected petitions from this pool became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general category cap. The agency announced on March 16 that it would begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases no later than May 16, 2016.
U.S. businesses use the H-1B visa to employ foreign workers in specialty fields such as science, engineering, and computer programming. Up to 6,800 visas are set aside from the 65,000 for Chile and Singapore H-1Bs under free trade agreements, leaving 58,200 visas available per year in the Bachelor’s degree quota.
“Overall, H-1B petitions had a mere 36 percent chance of being selected in the lottery,” said Justin Storch of the Washington, D.C.-based Council for Global Immigration (CFGI). Storch added that employers not eligible for the advanced degree cap had a 30 percent chance of having a petition selected.
CFGI Executive Director Lynn Shotwell believes that the caps reflect a backwards immigration system that hurts the U.S. economy.
“Once again, U.S. employers have lost out in the global race for talent, and once again our entire economy continues to pay a high price for our outmoded immigration system. Our continued reliance on a system of chance to determine a critical part of our future workforce is unfortunate and the arbitrarily low number of high-skilled visas only hurts everyone,” said Shotwell.
The growth in H-1B visa petitions from 2015 to 2016 was only 1%, compared to year-over-year growth of 35 percent from 2014-2015. Some experts see this decline in growth as a symptom of businesses giving up on the system after repeatedly being turned away. Another factor may be a doubling of fees for heavy users of the H-1B program.
According to USCIS, it will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the FY 2017 H-1B cap, including extensions to current H-1B visas, terms of employment changes, and employer changes.
The Law Office of Catherine Brown LLC assists employers and immigrants with all aspects of the H-1B process, from applying to the program to fulfilling wage obligations to maintaining H-1B status.
Need help with an H-1B or other type of visa? Contact us online or call 303-322-2117 to schedule a consultation.