By: Richard J. Block
On April 7, 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year 2017 has been reached. USCIS had only started accepting H-1B petitions for the annual cap on April 1. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption. The agency will use a computer-generated process, also known as the lottery, to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will first randomly select petitions for the advanced degree exemption. All unselected advanced degree petitions will become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general cap. USCIS will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions.
Before running the lottery, USCIS will complete initial intake for all filings received during the filing period, which ended April 7. Due to the high number of petitions, USCIS is not yet able to announce the date it will conduct the random selection process. Most likely, they will begin generating receipts for the petitions that were selected within the next few weeks. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap such as petitions filed to (1) extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States; (2) change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers; (3) allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and (4) allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.
U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ highly educated foreign professionals to work in "specialty occupations" that require at least a bachelor's degree in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming.