The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it has received sufficient H-1B petitions to reach the FY 2014 statutory cap for both the bachelor’s and advanced degree quotas.  The agency will not accept cap-subject H-1B petitions received after April 5, 2013. 

USCIS received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 7, 2013, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as a “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption limit. For cap-subject petitions not randomly selected, USCIS will reject and return the petition with filing fees, unless it is found to be a duplicate filing. 

H-1B petitions submitted under the advanced degree (U.S. Master's degrees and above) quota had two opportunities to be selected.  The agency conducted the selection process for advanced degree exemption petitions first. All advanced degree petitions not selected were part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.

For all H-1B petitions received under premium processing from April 1 to April 5, 2013, USCIS suspended premium processing until April 15, 2013, when the 15-day premium processing time period will start. As a reminder, pending H-1B petitions can be upgraded to premium processing once a receipt notice is issued.  The 15 day count starts when the USCIS receives the premium processing request.

The limited number of new H-1B petitions permitted each fiscal year is never sufficient to meet demands.  Even during the economic downturn of the last few years, the USCIS stopped accepting new petitions within the first few months of the fiscal year. 

The Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 (S. 169), introduced on January 29, 2013, would increase the annual number of new H-1B visas permitted to 115,000 and the number would incrementally increase in future years up to a ceiling of 300,000, depending on economic demands.  Further, there would be no limit on the number of new H-1B visas for graduates of U.S. Master's or higher programs.  This proposal has not yet passed Congress.

In the meantime, there are a number of alternative visa strategies for employers to consider.  Here are some of the most often available alternatives:

The H-1B visa.  Only new H-1B petitions are subject to the quota limits. A foreign professional granted H-1B status and already counted against the quota is generally exempt, regardless of whether changing employers or from another visa status (such as a current F-1 student who previously held H-1B status).

The F-1 visa. Foreign students studying in the U.S. can obtain work authorization for up to one year after completion of their studies in the U.S. and can be granted permission to work during their studies.  Further, work authorization can be extended for an additional 17 months for graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math for students working with employers enrolled in the government's eVerify program.

The O-1 visa.  The extraordinary ability visa requires a much higher level of accomplishment than the H-1B, but can be a good solution for key hires.

The TN visa. This free trade agreement visa was created as part of the North America Free Trade Agreement and is available only to Canadian and Mexican citizens coming to work in a NAFTA-designated profession.

The J-1 visa. The exchange visitor visa is available to allow foreign nationals to participate in on-the-job training programs for international trainees.

The E-3 visa. This free trade agreement visa is based on a treaty with Australia and is only available to Australian professionals, with requirements similar to the H-1B visa.

The H-1B1 visa. Yet another free trade agreement visa, this one is based on treaties with Singapore and Chile and is only available to Singaporean and Chilean professionals, with requirements similar to the H-1B visa.

The E-1 and E-2 visas. These treaty visas are for qualified jobs that encourage international trade or investment, but only at companies at least 50 percent owned and controlled by nationals of countries that have special trade or investment treaties with the U.S.

The L-1A and L-1B visas. These intracompany transfer visas authorize transfers of experienced employees between offices of multinational companies