It’s Almost Here! 2017 H-1B Cap Season Begins April 1st, 2016
On April 1st, 2016, USCIS will begin accepting new H-1B petitions subject to the cap for Fiscal Year 2017. If you plan to hire a professional, foreign worker, you should begin preparation for the H-1B visa process now. Based on last year’s numbers where USCIS received nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, the cap will most certainly be reached in the first week of April 2016. If you miss the opportunity to file a new H-1B petition this year, you will not have the opportunity to file until April 1st, 2017.
U.S. employers use the H-1B visa program to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. A specialty occupation is “an occupation that requires (A) the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and (B) attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.” For more information about the H-1B program, visit H-1B Specialty Occupations .
The current annual cap (from the period starting October 1st and ending on September 30th) as set by Congress for new H-1B petitions is 65,000 (regular cap). An advanced degree exemption is available for the first 20,000 petitions filed for a beneficiary who has obtained a U.S. master’s degree or higher (master’s cap). Please note, you should only apply under the master’s cap where the U.S. educational institution satisfies the master’s cap requirements. Therefore, it is important to discuss this issue with a qualified immigration attorney before submitting your petition under the master’s cap.
If the cap is reached within the first week of the new filing season, a lottery system will be implemented for petitions to be selected at random. The lottery system will first be conducted for the advanced degree exemption petitions. Once that has been reached, any petitions filed and not selected for beneficiaries with a U.S. master’s degree or higher will count against the regular cap, unless exempt for other reasons. The same lottery system will then be used for the regular cap. Note, if a petition is filed and not selected in the lottery, it will be returned with all government filing fees.
Again, the annual H-1B numerical quota is expected to be reached in the first week of April. Therefore, employers who have plans to use the H-1B program are recommended to begin the filing process as early as possible.