H-1B visa cap met in first week

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it reached the statutory H-1B visa cap of 65,000 for fiscal year 2014 during the first week of the filing period. This is the first time since 2008 that the cap has been met during the first week.

The H-1B program allows U.S. businesses to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations requiring theoretical or technical expertise (e.g., scientists, engineers, and computer programmers).

The number of H-1B visas is capped at 65,000 per year, although legislation that would expand the cap to 115,000 has been proposed. In addition to the 65,000 visas, another 20,000 foreign nationals who have earned a master’s degree or higher from an American university are exempt from the cap. The USCIS also announced that it has received more than 20,000 petitions for those advanced-degree exemptions.

Altogether, the USCIS received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, including petitions for the advanced-degree exemption. The agency said that on April 7, it used a computer-generated random selection process to choose a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the caps.

The agency conducted the selection process for advanced-degree exemption petitions first. All petitions that weren’t selected were part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit, the agency said. The USCIS will reject and return unselected cap-subject petitions with filing fees unless they are found to be duplicate filings.

The USCIS said it will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been previously counted against the cap weren’t counted toward the fiscal year 2014 H-1B cap. Accordingly, the USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
  • Change the 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.