United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the FY 2019 H-1B cap is now closed. It received a sufficient number of H‐1B petitions to reach the 65,000 statutory cap and the 20,000 advanced degree exemption. The agency has not yet announced the total number of H-1B petitions filed during the first business week of April, but numbers are anticipated to be quite high.

As it has for the last several fiscal years, USCIS will use a computer‐generated, random selection process (the “lottery”) for all FY 2019 cap‐subject petitions received through Friday, April 6, 2018 in order to determine which petitions it will process. It has not released the date on which it will complete the lottery. USCIS will conduct the lottery for 20,000 advanced degree exemption petitions first. All advanced degree petitions not selected during the initial lottery will then become part of the lottery process for the 65,000 “regular” statutory cap. As in prior years, USCIS will return any cap‐subject petition that is not randomly selected, including the employer’s filing fees.

Rejection rates are expected to be very high this year. Thus, employers should consider all options for any employee who it has sponsored under this year’s cap. With our assistance, our employer clients should consider, for example, whether a student candidate is eligible for a 24-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension because the candidate holds a U.S. Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) degree. We also are available to provide advice regarding alternative work visa options.