On April 7, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received sufficient H-1B cap-subject petitions to reach the annual 65,000 “regular cap” limit for fiscal year (FY) 2015. USCIS also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of foreign nationals who possess U.S. advanced degrees. The agency has not yet announced the total number of H-1B cap-subject petitions received during the filing period, though it is expected to be greater than the volume (approximately 124,000 cases) received last year. USCIS will reject H-1B cap-subject petitions received after April 7, 2014.
Since the number of petitions received during the first week of April 2014 exceeded the annual quota, USCIS will conduct two random selection (“lottery”) processes for all FY 2015 cap-subject petitions received through April 7 to determine which cases will be processed under the respective “caps.” The first lottery will be limited to those applicants who hold an advanced degree from a U.S. academic institution. If an advanced degree petition is not selected in the advanced degree lottery, it will be included in the lottery for the regular quota. Due to the high volume of petitions, USCIS has not yet indicated when it will complete initial case intake and conduct the lotteries. Receipt notices may not be issued for several weeks for petitions filed under regular processing. USCIS will begin to adjudicate cases filed under premium processing on April 28, 2014 in accordance with its previous announcement.
USCIS will continue to process certain H-1B petitions already counted towards the cap, including requests to extend current H-1B validity, change H-1B employers, or amend approved H-1B petitions. In addition, USCIS will continue to accept petitions exempted from the cap. Employers with petitions that are not accepted should explore alternatives with their Ogletree Deakins attorney. Otherwise, USCIS will begin accepting cap-subject H-1B petitions for FY 2016 on April 1, 2015 for employment with a start date of October 1, 2015 or later.
The annual H-1B cap numbers will continue to be quickly exhausted as long as the demand for skilled professionals exceeds the number of available visas. Although there is significant support in the U.S. Congress for increasing the number of H-1B visas, to date the business community has been unable to separate H-1B issues from the more contentious comprehensive immigration reform bill.