U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced today that the filing period for H-1B cap-subject petitions has closed and that it will conduct a lottery to select petitions that will be eligible for processing.

This marks the fourth consecutive year that the H-1B cap was reached within the first week of filing. Caps are set at 65,000 visas for individuals with undergraduate or equivalent degrees and 20,000 visas for individuals with master’s degrees or higher from U.S. universities.

USCIS has not yet set a date for the computer-generated lottery, citing the “high number of petitions” filed since April 1. The agency must complete initial intake for all filings before the lottery can be held.

The lottery is a two-step process. First, petitions for individuals holding U.S. master’s degrees and higher are placed in a pool, from which 20,000 petitions are randomly selected. Unselected petitions from the first draw are put in a pool with the petitions for candidates holding undergraduate degrees or equivalent. In the second draw, 65,000 petitions are selected.

Employers whose petitions are selected 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 2017 fiscal year. Petitions subject to the cap that are not selected or that are received after today will be returned 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 an H-1B holder can stay in the country, to change the terms of employment for an H-1B holder, to allow H-1B holders to switch employers or to allow H-1B holders to work concurrently in another H-1B job.

BAL Analysis: As anticipated, H-1B petitions exceeded the cap within the first week of filing. USCIS has not released information about how many petitions were received, but the number is likely to significantly exceed congressionally mandated quotas. BAL will continue to update clients as USCIS tallies the petitions, conducts the lottery and begins processing.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact BerryApplemanLeiden@bal.com.

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