USCIS Reaches FY 2019 H-1B Cap

by Joseph McKeown

US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that they have reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2019. They have also received a sufficient amount of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 limit for the master’s cap advanced degree exemption. While USCIS has not yet specified how many total H-1B cap cases have been received during this filing window, some experts are predicting overall lower numbers than in previous years.

USCIS will continue to accept and process H-1B cap-exempt petitions, including for extensions, change in terms of employment, change of employer, and concurrent employment. Petitions filed for current H-1B workers who have been previously counted against the cap and still retain their cap number will not be counted toward the FY 2019 cap. The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not prohibited multiple filings. As a reminder, USCIS has temporarily suspended premium processing for H-1B cap cases. For additional information, individuals can subscribe to email updates on the "H-1B Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Cap Season" page.

UPDATE APRIL 13, 2018: USCIS announced that on April 11, 2018, the agency performed the computer-generated random selection process to select enough H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally-mandated regular cap and the US advanced degree master’s cap exemption for fiscal year 2019. During the filing period beginning April 2, the agency received 190,098 H-1B cap petitions, down slightly from last year’s count of 199,000. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with filing fees unless the petition is a prohibited multiple filing. As is their usual procedure, USCIS conducted the selection process for the master’s cap first and included all unselected master’s cap petitions into the random selection process for the 65,000 regular cap.

UPDATE MAY 16, 2018: USCIS announced that they have completed data entry for all fiscal year 2019 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in the lottery. USCIS will now begin returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions not selected, but because of the large number of filings, they cannot provide a time frame for doing so. USCIS requests that petitioners not inquire about the status of their cap-subject petitions until they have received a receipt notice or the unselected petition is returned. The agency will issue an announcement after they have returned all the unselected petitions.

Additionally, applicants should note that USCIS may transfer some H-1B cap-subject petitions between the Vermont Service Center and the California Service Center to “balance the distribution of cap cases.” If a case is transferred, USCIS will send notification via mail, and all future correspondence should be directed to the center processing the petition.