It took just under a week for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to take in enough H-1B visa petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year 2015, which begins on October 1, 2014.
The USCIS announced April 7 that it received sufficient petitions to meet the caps of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 visas under the advanced degree exemption. The agency began accepting petitions on April 1.
The H-1B program allows U.S. businesses to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering, and computer programming. H-1B visas are typically highly sought after, although demand for them slowed during the recession. Last year was the first time the cap was met during the first week since 2008.
A statement from the USCIS explained that the agency will run a random selection process to determine which petitions will get visas. The USCIS will reject and return filing fees for all cap-subject petitions that aren’t selected unless they’re duplicate filings. The USCIS hasn’t announced the date on which it will conduct the selection process.
The USCIS’s statement said the agency will conduct the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first and all advanced degree petitions not selected will become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.
The USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are exempt from the cap. Also, petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who previously have been counted against the cap won’t be counted against the 2015 cap.
In addition, the USCIS’s statement said the agency 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.