U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Thursday that it received 190,098 cap-subject H-1B petitions during this year’s filing period. The agency also said that it has completed the computer-generated lottery to determine which petitions will be eligible for processing.

  • This was the sixth consecutive year that the H-1B cap was exceeded within the first week of filing. Caps are set at 65,000 visas for individuals with an undergraduate or equivalent degree and 20,000 visas for individuals with a master’s degree or higher from U.S. universities.
  • While the cap was easily eclipsed, the number of petitions filed this year was down compared with the past two years. USCIS received 199,000 petitions in 2017 and more than 236,000 in 2016.
  • Employers whose petitions were 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 2019 fiscal year.
  • Petitions subject to the cap that were not selected in the lottery or that were received after the filing period closed on April 6 will be returned along 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 a current H-1B worker can stay in the country, to change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers, to allow H-1B workers to switch employers, or to allow H-1B workers to accept concurrent employment in a second H-1B position.

BAL Analysis: The number of H-1B petitions easily exceeded the H-1B cap again this year, even as the number of petitions dropped by about 4.5 percent from last year. The odds of success in the lottery are still relatively low, however, and companies may want to consider alternative visa options or overseas assignments for high-skilled employees whose petitions are not selected. Petitions that are selected may face close scrutiny after USCIS sharply increased the number of requests for evidence that it issued last year. Employers should anticipate delays in H-1B cap receipt notices after the agency suspended premium processing for H-1B cap-subject petitions. The suspension is expected to remain in effect until Sept. 10. Please consult with a BAL professional for advice regarding alternatives to the H-1B visa category and other strategic options to fulfill workforce needs.

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

Copyright © 2018 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.