FY 2016 H-1B Cap Reached

USCIS to conduct visa lottery

By Roy Maurer Apr 8, 2015
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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reached the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2016 in the first week. The cap on petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption was also met.

USCIS announced April 7, 2015, that between April 1-7, 2015, it received more than 65,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions and more than 20,000 H-1B petitions for individuals holding a U.S. master’s degree or higher.

The agency will use a computer-generated process, also known as the lottery, to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps. The date of the lottery is not yet known.

Petitions under the advanced degree exemption will be randomly selected first. All unselected advanced degree petitions will become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general cap. The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the congressionally mandated FY 2016 H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States.
  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers.
  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers.
  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

Previously, USCIS announced that it will begin its premium processing service for H-1B cap cases on May 11, 2015.

No Surprise

Experts have been predicting record-breaking H-1B visa demand based on the petitions filed the last two years. In 2014, USCIS received 172,500 H-1B petitions for FY 2015 and in 2013, employers submitted 124,000 petitions for FY 2014 during the first week.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are over 200,000 petitions this year,” said Kim Thompson, a partner in the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips and chair of the firm’s global immigration practice group. “It’s been increasing every year, the economy is getting stronger and I think we’ll see a lot of people who were not picked last year resubmitting,” Thompson said.

The insufficient H-1B visa cap was one of the factors in a recent Business Roundtable report grading the United States ninth out of 10 advanced economies in terms of employment-based immigration policies.

“How many more H-1B caps do we have to reach before policymakers fix the system?” asked Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions, and chair of the Business Roundtable Immigration Committee.

"It’s clear that the demand for skilled workers is at an all-time high," said Dick Burke, president and CEO of Visanow, an immigration processing service provider based in Chicago. "This is indicative of the increasing need for foreign talent to fill jobs that promote both the growth of U.S. businesses and the national economy. Until this imbalance is resolved, it behooves employers and individuals to learn and thoughtfully consider all their options," he said.

“My heart goes out to all of our members who have invested so much time and resources in locating highly qualified employees and preparing all the government paperwork to legally bring their talents into their operations,” remarked Lynn Shotwell, executive director of the Council for Global Immigration. “For many of them, all of this work will have been in vain. U.S. employers deserve better than this,” she said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy

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