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USCIS Reaches H-1B Cap for FY 2016; Premium Processing Starts Soon


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 7, 2015, that it had reached the congressionally mandated H-1B nonimmigrant visa cap of 65,000 for fiscal year (FY) 2016. USCIS also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced-degree exemption. USCIS announced on April 13, 2015, that nearly 233,000 employers filed H-1B petitions in the first week of April. This means that employers have about a 30% chance of winning the H-1B lottery this year.

U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent.

Process for FY 2016. USCIS said that it will use a computer-generated “lottery” to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps. Before running the lottery, USCIS will complete initial intake for all filings received during the filing period. Due to the high number of petitions, USCIS is not yet able to announce the date on which it will conduct the random selection process. USCIS said it will first randomly select petitions for the advanced degree exemption. All unselected advanced degree petitions will become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general limit. The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the FY 2016 H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position. U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering, and computer programming.

Premium processing. USCIS also announced that it will begin premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions by May 11, 2015. USCIS provides premium processing service for certain employment-based petitions and guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing time.

For H-1B petitions not subject to the cap and for any other visa classification, the 15-day processing period for premium processing service begins on the date USCIS receives the request. However, for cap-subject H-1B petitions, including advanced degree exemption petitions, the 15-day processing period will begin on May 11, 2015, regardless of the date on the I-797 receipt notice, which indicates the date on which the premium processing fee was received.

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