Applying for an H-1B visa is literally a lottery. On April 1, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it would begin accepting H-1B petitions for FY 2017. By April 7, it announced it had received enough applications to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for 2017.
USCIS said in a press release it had also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption, which is also known as the master’s cap.
The release stated USCIS received more than 236,000 visa petitions during the brief filing period. Just two days later, on April 9, USCIS selected enough applications to meet the caps by using a “computer-generated random selection process,” – in other words, a lottery. USCIS said it would reject and return all of the petitions it did not select along with their filing fees, with the exception of duplicate filings.
The speed with which the cap is exceeded highlights the importance of getting your application ready for the cap season, in plenty of time. There are important prerequisites that are needed first. For instance, a prospective employer in the U.S must file a Labor Conditional Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor before filing an H-1B petition. An LCA can take as long as three weeks to adjudicate.
Before you submit an application, it’s important to know what the visa is.
What is An H-1B Visa?
Skilled and qualified aliens who hold a Bachelor’s Degree can live and work in the United States by obtaining an H-1B visa in their specified field. The fields in question relate to ‘specialty occupations’ and could include research, defense projects, computer science occupations, doctors, engineers or architects. Find out more by clicking this link.
What is the Master’s Cap?
If you hold advanced degrees from a U.S. institution (master’s degree or higher), you have a greater opportunity of being selected. However, only the first 20,000 petitions received for those holding advanced degrees were exempted from the cap. Petitions received above the 20,000 counted toward the regular Bachelor’s cap.
What About Petitions Filed with Premium Processing?
If your H-1B petition was filed with premium processing, your employer and your attorney will know whether or not you have been successful, no later than May 16. USCIS will only notify the attorney you have on file and the employer who is petitioning for the application.
Applying for H-1B visas is often a headache, and the federal government is coming under pressure from business leaders to make more available. Our Austin-based immigration attorneys can smooth the process and make sure you are in compliance with all the conditions before you apply for a visa. If you need help with applying for an H-1B visa, please contact our office to talk to an experienced immigration attorney about how to proceed.