Introduction

On April 7 2016 US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for fiscal year 2017.(1) USCIS also announced that it had received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption, also known as the master's cap.

US businesses use the H-1B programme to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialised knowledge (eg, at least a bachelor's degree or equivalent) in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming.

2017 process

On April 12 2016 USCIS announced that it had received over 236,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period that began on April 1 2016, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. This is 3,000 more petitions than the record-breaking number of filings for financial year 2016.

On April 9 2016 USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (ie, lottery) to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general category cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees, unless the petition is found to be a duplicate filing. USCIS conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All unselected advanced degree petitions then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.(2)

Premium processing

In March 2016 USCIS announced that it will begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases no later than May 16 2016. For H-1B petitions not subject to the cap and for any other visa classification, the 15-day processing period for premium processing service begins on the date that USCIS receives the request.(3)

Cap-exempt petitions

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 previously counted towards the cap will also not be counted towards the congressionally mandated financial year 2017 H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:

  • extend the amount of time that a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
  • change employment terms for current H-1B workers;
  • allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
  • allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

For further information on this topic please contact Melissa Winkler at Fakhoury Law Group PC by telephone (+1 248 643 4900) or email (melissa@employmentimmigration.com). The Fakhoury Law Group website can be accessed at www.employmentimmigration.com.

Endnotes

(1) The USCIS announcement about the H-1B cap being reached is available at www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-reaches-fy-2017-h-1b-cap.

(2) For further details please see www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/h-1b-specialty-occupations-and-fashion-models/h-1b-fiscal-year-fy-2017-cap-season.

(3) The USCIS announcement about premium processing is available at www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-will-accept-h-1b-petitions-fiscal-year-2017-beginning-april-1-2016.

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