U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Friday that the H-1B cap filing period has closed, as the number of petitions received has reached the congressional quotas for fiscal year 2018.

USCIS is required to accept H-1B cap petitions for at least five business days or until the quota is met—whichever is longer. This is the fifth consecutive year in which the H-1B cap has been reached in the first week of the filing period, leading to a random lottery process for selecting petitions that will be adjudicated. New H-1B visas are annually capped at 65,000 for undergraduate-degree holders with an additional 20,000 for individuals holding advanced degrees from U.S. institutions.

A lottery is expected to be conducted in the coming days after the agency completes initial intake of all filings. The lottery is conducted in two phases. 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 2018 fiscal year. Petitions subject to the cap that are not selected or that are received after Friday will be returned with their filing fees.

The agency will continue to accept H-1B petitions that are not subject to the quotas, as well as H-1B extension applications, changes to the terms of H-1B employment, requests to allow H-1B workers to change employers, and requests to allow H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

BAL Analysis: As anticipated, H-1B petitions exceeded the cap within the first week of filing. USCIS has not yet released information about how many petitions were received, but in recent years the odds of being selected have been well below 50 percent. BAL will continue to update clients as selection and processing progress. Employers and individuals are reminded that the suspension of premium processing of all H-1B petitions will remain in place for up to six months, and receipt notices are likely to be delayed.

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

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