The H-1B cap has been reached! US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reports that they have reached the congressional-mandated H-1B cap numbers for fiscal year 2016 (i.e., for new H-1B petitions with a start date of October 1, 2015 filed in April of this year). In addition, USCIS has received more than the 20,000 limit of H-1B petitions filed under the US advanced degree exemption.
As in previous years, after completing intake on all H-1B cases received between April 1 and April 7, 2015, USCIS will conduct (on a date yet to be determined) the "H-1B lottery" using a computer-generated process to randomly select the 65,000 regular category petitions and also the 20,000 advanced degree exemption cases. USCIS states they will first select H-1B petitions for the advanced degree exemption; all unselected advanced degree petitions will then become part of the 65,000 general category selection process. Except for duplicate filings, USCIS will return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions. In the meantime, USCIS will continue to accept and process H-1B cap exempt petitions. We will provide updates on when the lottery will take place as soon as USCIS releases this information.
UPDATE 4/14/2015: USCIS reports that they received nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions including advanced degree exemption cases filed during April 1 and April 7, 2015. On April 13, USCIS conducted the H-1B lottery using the computer-generated random selection process to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. In addition, USCIS announced that they will begin premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions (including advanced degree cases) on April 27, 2015. This fifteen-day premium processing period will begin on April 27, 2015, regardless of the date on the Form I-797 receipt notice, which merely indicates the date that the premium processing fee is received.
UPDATE 5/5/2015: USCIS announced that it has completed data entry for all fiscal year 2016 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in the random lottery. This means that they have issued all I-797 receipt notices for all H-1B cap cases that were selected in the lottery although it is not clear that all receipts have been sent out yet. USCIS will now focus on returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected. The time frame for returning all unselected petitions is unknown, but USCIS will announce once all the petitions have been returned.