U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Monday that it received 199,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions during this year’s filing period. The agency has completed the computer-generated lottery to determine which petitions will be eligible for processing.

Key Points:

  • This was the fifth 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 cap was easily eclipsed, the number of petitions filed this year was down compared with the past two years. USCIS received more than 236,000 petitions in 2016 and nearly 233,000 petitions in 2015.
  • 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 2018 fiscal year.
  • BAL began receiving receipts today and expects more over the coming weeks.
  • 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 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 15 percent. The odds of success in the lottery are still relatively low, and companies may want to consider alternative visa options or overseas assignments for high-skilled employees whose petitions are not selected. Please consult with a BAL professional for advice regarding alternatives to the H-1B visa category and other strategic options to fulfill workforce needs. BAL is continuing to monitor for any effects the current suspension of premium processing might have on overall case timeframes.

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

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