The H-1B cap filing period has closed, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced April 7.

The number of H-1B petitions filed during the first week of the application period exceeded the caps of 65,000 visas for foreign nationals with an undergraduate degree or equivalent and 20,000 visas for foreign nationals with master’s degrees or higher from U.S. universities. A lottery will now determine which petitions will be eligible for processing. Petitions received after April 7 will be returned with their filing fees.

USCIS has not confirmed the total number of petitions it received or set a date for the lottery.

“Before running the lottery, USCIS will complete initial intake for all filings received during the filing period, which ended April 7,” USCIS said.

The lottery will happen in two phases. Petitions for individuals holding U.S. master’s degrees and higher will be placed in the first pool. Once 20,000 are selected from that group, the remainder will be put in a pool with petitions for candidates holding undergraduate degrees or equivalent. Sixty-five thousand petitions will be drawn from the second pool.

Employers whose petitions are accepted in the lottery will receive receipt notices and, if approved, employees will be eligible to begin work in H-1B status beginning Oct. 1, the start of the 2016 fiscal year. Petitions that are not selected will be returned with their filing fees.

BAL Analysis: As expected, H-1B petitions exceeded the cap within the first week of filing. The number of petitions is expected to surpass last year’s total of about 172,500. BAL will continue to update clients as USCIS tallies the petitions, conducts the lottery and begins processing.

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