H-1B petitions filed in the first week have exceeded the annual limits of 65,000 for undergraduate degree applicants and 20,000 for applicants holding a U.S. master’s degree or higher, according to an announcement today by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This ends the filing period for H-1B cap cases for employment in FY 2015 (that begins Oct. 1, 2014).

USCIS had anticipated a record number of filings this season and announced in March that it would postpone premium processing of cap cases until April 28. When the number of H-1B filings hits the annual statutory ceiling in the first five business days, this triggers a random computer-generated lottery. Any cases not selected will be rejected and applications will be returned with filing fees unless they are found to be duplicate filings.

Employers will have to wait up to several weeks longer than normal to receive decisions on cap cases while USCIS finishes counting the filed petitions and conducts the lottery. USCIS has not confirmed the total number of petitions received and has not set a date for the lottery selection. It will conduct the lottery for the advanced-degree applicants first. Any applicants who are not selected will have another chance under the second random draw for undergraduate-degree petitions.

H-1B petitions not subject to the cap, including H-1B workers whose petitions were previously counted against the cap, will continue to be processed regularly.

BAL Analysis: As expected, H-1B petitions are at historical highs, likely surpassing last year’s 124,000 petitions in the first five business days of the filing period. The Congressionally-mandated caps and resulting lottery will once again delay decisions for businesses relying on skilled technology workers.

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