April 1, 2014, is the first day USCIS will accept H-1B petitions for quota/cap-subject cases for FY 2015, commencing October 1, 2014. Only 65,000 H-1Bs are available nationwide per year for new jobs for foreign workers requiring Bachelor’s degrees, and only 20,000 for those requiring Master’s or advanced degrees. With demand for H-1B workers high, the quota likely will be filled quickly, leading USCIS to conduct a computer-generated random selection process, known as the “ lottery,” to randomly select which of cases will be receipted and adjudicated under the cap. Information gleaned from USCIS regulations and recent press release postings yields a few tips:
- USCIS expects to receive a high volume of H-1B petitions this year.
- The quota is likely to be exceeded in the first few days of April.
- Regulations require USCIS to accept petitions received the first five business days of April. With April 1st a Tuesday, the fifth business day will be Monday, April 7, meaning petitions must be sent by Saturday, April 5.
- Initial review will sort out multiple or duplicative H-1B petitions filed by an employer for one employer. Regulations require USCIS to deny or revoke those multiple or duplicative petitions that an employer files for the same H-1B worker, and they will not return or refund the filing fees.
- Master’s cap petitions will be sorted from non-Master’s cases and subjected to the random process to select the 20,000 that will be processed.
- All cases not selected as part of the U.S. Master’s lottery will be entered into the bachelor’s cap lottery, in which 58,200 cases (65,000 minus 6,800 carved out for Chile and Singapore H-1Bs) will be subjected to the random system to select those that will be adjudicated.
- Rejected petitions will be returned to the attorney or employer along with the filing fees (except for multiple or duplicative filings by an employer for an employee).
- For H-1B cap petitions accompanied by the premium processing fee – an extra $1225 USCIS filing fee – requesting processing within 15 days of filing, USCIS will delay the start of the 15-day period, possibly until Monday, April 28.
- Employers probably will not know whether a petition has been accepted and made it through the lottery until processing has begun and USCIS sends a receipt notice, or until the attorney or employer receives the rejected petition.
- Premium processing does not increase the change of being selected in the lottery, but may enable earlier notification of whether the petition was accepted or rejected.
- Petitions filed without premium processing may take several months to process, but should be processed before October 1, 2014.
- Because of the five-business-day rule, a petition that USCIS received on April 1, 2, 3, 4, or 7 has the same chance of being accepted and the same risk of being rejected as a petition sent on March 31.
In the unlikely event that the quota is not filled during the first five business days in April, then USCIS will continue to accept petitions day-to-day until the H-1B quota is reached.