US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that they have reached the congressionally mandated 65,000 H-1B visa cap numbers for fiscal year 2018. Additionally, USCIS has also received a sufficient number of filed H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 US advanced degree exemption numbers, also known as the master’s cap. The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings. The agency did not specify when the H-1B lottery would occur, but in previous years it typically happens within a few weeks of the filing period being closed.
USCIS will continue to accept and process “cap-exempt” H-1B petitions. Note, however, that effective April 3 USCIS suspended premium processing for all H-1B petitions, including cap-exempt petitions. Cap-exempt petitions include those filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number. USCIS will continue to accept and process “cap-exempt” petitions such as those filed to:
- Extend stay for current H-1B workers in the United States;
- Change terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
- Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
- Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.
USCIS encourages interested parties to subscribe to the “H-1B Cap Season” email updates at the H-1B Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Cap Season page. This page also includes general information on the H-1B visa program including cap-specific guidance. We will update this post when we receive more information about the cap lottery.
UPDATE APRIL 17, 2017: USCIS announced today that on April 11 they used the computer-generated random selection process, also known as the H-1B lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category H1-B cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first, and afterwards, all unselected advanced degree petitions became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 regular cap.
During the filing period, which began April 3 and closed less than a week later, USCIS received 199,000 H-1B petitions, including petitions for the advanced degree exemption. While some experts predicted a large influx of H-1B petitions this year due to possible fears about changes to the H-1B program under the Trump administration, the total number is down from last year, when USCIS received 236,000 petitions. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees, except those petitions found to be a duplicate filing.
UPDATE MAY 4, 2017: USCIS announced that as of May 3, 2017, they have completed the data entry of fiscal year 2018 H-1B cap-subject petitions that were selected in the random computer-generated process. Now USCIS will begin returning all H-1B cap petitions that were not selected in the lottery. Due to the high volume of petitions—199,000 were received in total, as mentioned above—the agency is unable to provide a definite time frame for the return of the petitions, and consequently USCIS asks petitioners not to inquire about the status of submitted cap petitions until a receipt notice or rejected petition is returned.
USCIS will issue an announcement once all the unselected petitions have been returned. Note additionally that USCIS is transferring some H-1B cap petitions from the Vermont Service Center to the California Service Center to balance the distribution of cap cases. All transferred cases will receive a notification in the mail, and after receiving such a notification, all future correspondence should be directed to the center processing the petition.