USCIS Completes the H-1B Cap Random Selection Process for Fiscal Year 2017

For the fourth year in a row, the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2017 was reached during the first week of April. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received over 236,000 H-1B petitions during this seven-day period, which is at least 3,000 more than last year. On April 9, 2016, USCIS conducted a computer-generated “H-1B lottery” to randomly select petitions pursuant to the annual H-1B caps: 20,000 H-1Bs under the advanced degree exemption and 65,000 H-1Bs under the general category. USCIS conducted the lottery for the advanced degree exemption first; unselected petitions in this category were then added to the selection process for the general lottery. The chances of being accepted in this year’s general lottery were approximately 30%. Although USCIS has not provided information on how many advanced degree H-1B petitions were filed, based on results over the last couple years, we estimate that approximately 60%-70% of petitions filed under the Master’s cap were accepted. USCIS began issuing receipt notices for H-1B cap petitions that were selected in the lottery on April 11, 2016. We expect that it will take USCIS several weeks to issue electronic receipts notices for petitions filed via premium processing. We expect that paper receipt notices for petitions filed via regular processing will be issued by mid-May. USCIS will likely begin returning petitions that were not selected in the lottery in late May or early June. We will not know for certain whether a petition has been selected in the lottery until we receive either a receipt notice or the returned petition. We will notify our clients immediately in either case. USCIS will begin adjudicating H-1B cap cases filed with a request for premium processing no later than May 16, 2016. As a reminder, employers may continue to file H-1B petitions for individuals who are cap exempt. Foreign nationals who have previously been counted against the cap are generally not subject to this year’s cap, unless they have already reached the six-year limit in H-1B status and are ineligible for an extension beyond this limit under sections 104(c) or 106(a) of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (“AC21”). Additionally, petitions filed for foreign nationals who will be employed by institutions of higher education, nonprofit research organizations, or governmental research organizations are generally not subject to the cap. Please contact our office if you are unsure whether a particular candidate is subject to the cap.

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