As most H-1B employers know, there is an annual quota on the number of new H-1B petitions that can be approved each federal fiscal year. The quota is 65,000 for regular H-1B petitions, plus another 20,000 for H-1B petitions filed for foreign nationals ("FNs") who have obtained a master's degree or higher from an accredited American university. On April 7, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") announced that it received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to surpass both statutory caps. In total, the USCIS received about 172,500 H-1B petitions.
On April 10, 2014, the USCIS conducted a random lottery of all petitions received on or before April 7, 2014. The USCIS conducted the random selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All advanced degree petitions not selected then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit. Because the USCIS did not release the amount of advanced degree petitions that it received, it is difficult to project the probability of an advanced degree applicant being selected for inclusion into the fiscal year 2015 H-1B Cap. For those candidates with bachelor's degrees, it appears that there is less than a 50 percent chance of selection.
The USCIS has started sending out receipts for H-1B petitions that were properly filed and selected for inclusion in the quota. While requesting premium processing does not enhance the probability of selection, it does result in expedited notification and adjudication, if selected. The USCIS has started sending these electronic receipts out and announced that it will begin premium processing H-1B cap cases on April 28, 2014. The USCIS anticipates that receipts for all H-1B petitions selected for this year's H-1B quota should be sent by the end of May. During this time, the USCIS also will start returning those H-1B petitions that were not chosen.
Due to the improbability of selection in the quota, employers need to examine contingency plans on how to handle sponsored employees in the event that their H-1B petitions are not chosen.