Master’s Cases Exhausted on April 30, 2007

On April 30, 2007, just 29 days after the first day permitted for filing, all 20,000 H-1B numbers reserved for those with Master’s or higher degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education were exhausted. The news was made official in a May 4 Update issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Update also advised that all H-1B petitions in the advanced degree category received on April 30 would be subject to the same computer-generated random selection process that was in place for cases filed under the “regular” H-1B category. And any cases received after April 30, the Update explained, would be rejected and sent back.

In an earlier Client Alert, we advised you that the “regular” pool of 65,000 H-1B numbers (those not based on U.S. advanced degrees) was exhausted on April 2, the first day that filing was permitted. (Last year the numbers lasted 56 days.) The advanced degree cap was also reached much faster this year than it was in 2006, when the 20,000 numbers were not exhausted until July 26.

“Misplaced” Cases

So far, the USCIS has made no public announcements about unaccounted for Master’s cases. We know that some were misplaced by the agency because no receipts were issued for those cases. When contacted, the USCIS was unable to locate the cases in its database, despite the fact that the petitioners had proof from overnight couriers that the cases were timely received by the Service Centers. The USCIS has advised our Bar association—though it has made no public announcements—that an allocation of numbers has been made for misplaced cases, improperly rejected cases, and cases that, though denied at the Service Centers, are ultimately approved on appeal. Presumably, H-1B numbers will be made available for cases falling into those categories.