Last week, the USCIS confirmed that they had received enough applications to meet the 85,000 H-1B cap for the fiscal year. The USCIS has not announced how many applications have been received, but it is likely to be well above the 85,000 visa allocation. This announcement was widely expected, and means that USCIS will take all H-1B applications submitted between April 2 and April 6. Naturally, this raises a number of questions, but understanding how the process works makes an often confusing undertaking easier. We have outlined below what you can expect:

  • Data entry will be completed and all petitions will be screened to ensure that there are not duplicate petitions. The USCIS does not allow the same employer to file multiple petitions for the same employee.
  • Once the USCIS ensures that there are no duplicate petitions, they will separate those applications that are subject to the “master’s cap.” Of the 85,000 visas, 20,000 are reserved for individuals with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. college or university. The USCIS runs a random lottery and selects 20,000 applications where the foreign worker possesses the advanced degree (plus some for a margin of error) and considers these applications as accepted.
  • The applicants that are not selected in the advanced degree lottery are then placed with the other applications. Of those remaining, the USCIS runs a second random lottery, and selects 65,000 H-1B applications (plus a few more to account for a margin of error).
  • Once all applications are accepted, the government formally accepts the filing fees, and issues a receipt notice. Those that are not selected are returned.

There is not a specific schedule or time limit by which USCIS must formally run the lottery and begin issuing receipts. Over the last several years when a lottery situation has arisen, we typically begin to see receipts come in in mid-May. USCIS typically makes an announcement when all receipts have been sent.  After that, the rejections start to come back to our office in late May or June.

We anticipate a similar schedule this year, and will keep our website up to date with any developments that arise. In the meantime, if there are immigration-related questions, do not hesitate to contact the immigration law team at Caplan & Earnest.