USCIS announced today at 3:00 PM that it had received approximately 124,000 H-1B Visa applications from April 1 through April 5. Because this number exceeded the 20,000 Masters Cap + 65,000 regular Cap, USCIS initiated the lottery procedure. The fact that the lottery has already been completed is a welcome improvement over past years when the lottery was not completed until much later in April. Having the lottery done early will allow applicants who did not get selected additional time to evaluate thier immigration options and make other plans, prior to the expiration of their current immigration status.
Chance of Success: Based upon the number of applications received, each applicant will have an unscientific 2/3 chance to obtain an H-1B visa number. The chance calculation is not exact as we do not know how many of the 124,000 applications received were persons with a US Masters degrees. The Masters degree cap lottery was conducted first, with any losers being added to the regular cap lottery.
H-1B applicants will either receive a USCIS receipt notice, signifying that their applications have been successful and selected in the lottery, or they will receive their complete application, including their filing fee checks back in the mail, with a notice indicating that they did not get picked.
Premium Processing: As previously indicated, in a USCIS statement, the agency will begin premium processing H-1B applications on April 15, 2013, thus the statutory 15 day period will commence on that date.
We should start receiving H-1B receipt notices within the next several days. Normally the rejected applications take much longer to be mailed, because they must be handled by humans in the mailroom, whereas USCIS receipts are all system generated.
If you application has not been selected, it is best to consult with your immigration attorney to determine the best options for addressing this disappointing news. Often other options are available, such as a change of status to a different status, or a STEM OPT extension. This is not however, the case for all applicants and some may be required to return home after their current status expires.
Cap Exempt H-1Bs: It is important to remember that the H-1B cap does not affect all H-1B applicants. As stated in its press release today: “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 been counted previously against the cap will not be counted towards the congressionally-mandated FY 2014 H-1B cap. Accordingly, USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:
- extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the U.S.;
- change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
- allow current H-1B workers to change employers;
- allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.”
We are hopeful that with the strong likelihood of immigration reform, this might be our last H-1B cap for a while. Proposals currently under consideration would increase the cap to a maximum of 300,000 depending upon prior H-1B usage, economic and unemployment rate factors. We will keep our fingers crossed.