As of 2 April 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2019 quota (also known as the “cap”), for employment with 1 October 2018 as the effective start date. The numerical limitation on H-1B petitions for FY 2019 is 65,000 under the “regular” cap (with certain visas specifically set aside for nationals of Chile and Singapore under respective free trade agreements). In addition, there are 20,000 H-1B visas available for individuals with U.S. master’s degrees or higher (the so-called “master’s” cap). We note that individuals with U.S.-awarded advanced degrees can qualify either under the master’s cap or the regular cap, assuming there is availability. USCIS anticipates that it will receive more than 65,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions and more than 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher within the filing period which covers the first five business days of April (2-6 April, this year). Last year, USCIS announced on 7 April 2017 that it had received enough filings to reach the H-1B cap and the master’s cap within the filing period, receiving over 199,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period starting on 3 April 2017.   

USCIS will monitor the number of petitions received this year and notify the public of the date on which the numerical limit of the H-1B cap has been met. Should the number of applications received exceed these allocated amounts, as it is currently expected, USCIS will, similar to its practice in the past, use a lottery system to randomly select the petitions that will be processed under the cap (up to the number required to reach the numerical limit under each of the caps). USCIS will reject petitions that are subject to the cap and are not selected in the lottery system, as well as petitions received after it has the necessary number of petitions needed to meet the cap.    

We note that on 20 March 2018, USCIS announced that it will suspend “premium processing” (expedited review) services for all cap-subject H-1B petitions (click here to read announcement). This temporary suspension is expected to last until 10 September 2018. USCIS indicated that it will continue accepting premium processing requests for H-1B petitions that are not subject to the annual cap (e.g., H-1B extension petitions as well as initial H-1B petitions involving cap-exempt employers).