Following the announcement last week by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that this year’s H-1B cap was reached, yesterday USCIS released the actual number of filings it received, stating nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions were filed between April 1 and April 7.  The announcement did not give details about how many of the 233,000 petitions were filed under the 20,000 Master’s exemption and/or the 65,000 regular H-1B statutory cap.  USCIS also indicated that it has now completed the computer-generated random selection process, also known as the “lottery,” and will begin notifying petitioners and their representatives of H-1B petitions that were selected.  USCIS will also start the process of rejecting and returning 148,000 unselected H-1B petitions along with filing fees. Greenberg Traurig expects to start receiving receipt notices as early as this week, particularly on cases that were premium processed for which USCIS issues electronic receipt notices. Based on experience with USCIS’ handling of receipt notices for previous H-1B cap seasons, the firm expects to start receiving paper receipt notices for non-premium processed cases at some point over the next seven to 21 days.  Rejected petitions are expected to start arriving in the mail at the end of April.

The significant demand for H-1B visas is a reflection of the current strength of the U.S. economy.  Indeed, the International Monetary Fund announced yesterday that the U.S. economy should manage growth of 3 percent or more in 2015, which will be the strongest annual growth percentage since 2005. The flip side of this growth is that the H-1B cap doesn’t reflect the demand of U.S. employers or their market needs to remain competitive and hire the best talent available. The facts speak for themselves: employers only have a 36.5 percent chance of having an H-1B petition selected under this year’s cap, compared with 49 percent  last year; cases that were filed under the 65,000 regular cap this year only have a 30.5 percent chance of being selected; and H-1B filings increased this year by 35 percent over last year’s filings.  With continued economic growth expected next year, employers will be looking for Congress to improve access to highly-skilled foreign workers by increasing the number of H-1B visas available each year, or by even doing away with the numerical cap altogether and allowing a market-driven solution to pass.

So what’s next?  The casualties under this year’s cap are going to be staggering, as illustrated by 148,000 rejected petitions USCIS will begin returning to employers and their representatives over the next several weeks.  Employers should start assessing viable immigration alternatives for affected individuals, including telling some employees that termination is the only option once their current work authorization runs out.