U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced today that it received more than 236,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions during this year’s filing period. The agency also said it has completed the computer-generated lottery to determine which petitions will be eligible for processing.

This was 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 a master’s degree or higher from U.S. universities.

While the number of petitions was once again significantly higher than the cap, it marked only a slight increase over last year, when USCIS received nearly 233,000 petitions.

The lottery, which USCIS said it completed Saturday, took place in two phases: first, 20,000 petitions were drawn from those holding master’s degrees or higher; second, 65,000 petitions were then drawn from a pool consisting of those not selected from the first draw and undergraduate-degree holders.

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 2017 fiscal year. Petitions subject to the cap that are not selected or that were received after the filing period closed 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 an H-1B worker, to allow H-1B workers to switch employers, or to allow H-1B workers to accept concurrent employment in a second job.

BAL Analysis: As expected, the number of H-1B filings greatly exceeded the H-1B cap again this year. Given the relatively low odds of success in the lottery, companies should consider alternative visa options or overseas assignments for high-skilled employees. 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.

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