On April 13, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) released the H-1B “cap” count, indicating that during the filing period it had received nearly 233,000 petitions for H-1B work visas. This means that U.S. employers filed approximately 233,000 petitions during the five-day window of opportunity that opened on April 1 and closed on April 7, 2015. 

Per congressional mandate, there are approximately 65,000 H-1B visa petitions available each fiscal year, plus an additional 20,000 H-1B visas available only to those individuals who hold U.S. advanced degrees. In situations in which demand for visas exceeds supply, USCIS holds a random selection (lottery) process to determine which petitions will receive an H-1B work visa.

Today, USCIS indicated that it has conducted the H-1B lottery process. First, USCIS held a lottery for the 20,000 H-1B visas available only to those who hold U.S. advanced degrees. All petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree category that were not selected in this initial lottery were then included in the random selection process for the standard 65,000 H-1B visas.  

The next step is for USCIS to send out official Form I-797 receipt notices related to those petitions that won the H-1B visa lottery. Typically, we start receiving official receipt notices from USCIS immediately following the lottery, and USCIS continues to mail out receipt notices for several weeks. Cases that were not selected in the lottery process will not receive a receipt notice, and eventually the petition will be returned to the attorney of record, along with the government filing fees. This process takes up to several months to complete.

For those petitions that contain a request for USCIS “premium processing”—whereby USCIS adjudicates the petition within 15 calendar days in exchange for an optional government fee of $1,225—USCIS typically sends a courtesy email receipt to the attorney of record in advance of the official Form I-797 receipt notice that is sent via U.S. mail. USCIS will start the 15-calendar day processing clock on a date that has yet to be determined, but which will be no later than May 11, 2015.