USCIS H-1B Cap Fiscal Year 2019

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced Thursday April 12, 2018, that it received 190,098 H-1B cap-subject petitions during this year’s filing period. USCIS also stated that it has completed the computer-generated lottery to determine which petitions will be eligible for processing.

  • This was the sixth consecutive year that the H-1B cap was exceeded within the first week of filing. Caps are set at 65,000 visas for individuals with an undergraduate or equivalent degree and 20,000 visas for individuals with a master’s degree or higher from U.S. universities.
  • While the cap was easily surpassed, the number of petitions filed this year was down compared with the past two years. USCIS received 199,000 petitions in 2017 and more than 236,000 in 2016.
  • Employers whose petitions were selected will receive receipt notices and, if approved, employees will be eligible to begin work in H-1B status beginning October 1st, 2018, the start of the 2019 fiscal year.
  • Petitions subject to the cap that were not selected in the lottery or that were received after the filing period, which started on April 2nd and closed on April 6th will be returned along with their filing fees.
  • USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap as well as petitions to extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker can stay in the country, to change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers, to allow H-1B workers to switch employers, or to allow H-1B workers to accept concurrent employment in a second H-1B position.

The number of H-1B petitions easily exceeded the H-1B cap again this year, even as the number of petitions dropped by about 4.5 percent from last year. The odds of success in the lottery are still relatively low at approximately 30%. Therefore, companies may want to consider alternative visa options or overseas assignments for high-skilled employees whose petitions are not selected. Entrepreneurs, executives, managers, and investors, seeking an H-1B may also want to consider alternatives.

Petitions that are selected may face close scrutiny after USCIS sharply increased the number of requests for evidence that it issued last year. Employers should anticipate delays in H-1B cap receipt notices after the USCIS suspended premium processing for H-1B cap-subject petitions. The suspension is expected to remain in effect until Sept. 10. Please consult with an immigration attorney at Subhan Law Office, LLC, for advice regarding alternatives to the H-1B visa category and other strategic options to fulfill workforce needs.

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