High demand for skilled immigrant workers led to one of the briefest H-1B visa petition periods in recent years, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announcing that the number of petitions it received met or exceeded the annual statutory cap in just five days. The agency anticipated this before it began accepting petitions for fiscal year 2014, and it announced changes to its “premium processing” system to account for the expected high volume of petitions. In order to process the high volume of petitions subject to the annual cap, USCIS is using a lottery system to select petitions for approval. USCIS will continue, during this time, to accept petitions for current H-1B visa holders seeking to extend or modify their visas.
The H-1B visa, a temporary, nonimmigrant visa for highly-skilled workers coming to the U.S. for a “specialty occupation,” is subject to an annual cap of 65,000. Employers petition on behalf of the prospective immigrant for a specific job. Types of jobs eligible for an H-1B visa often involve computer programming, but include many jobs in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The first 20,000 petitions filed for individuals with master’s degrees or higher from a U.S. college or university are not subject to the cap. The remaining petitions must compete for limited available visas. USCIS began accepting H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2014 on April 1, 2013, and the number it received reached the 65,000-visa cap by April 5. This was therefore the “final receipt date,” when USCIS stopped accepting new H-1B petitions.
USCIS allows a petitioner to request “premium processing” with payment of an additional fee. This guarantees processing of an H-1B petition within fifteen days of its acceptance by USCIS. Because of the volume of petitions received, the agency announced that it has modified its premium processing procedures for the upcoming fiscal year’s petitions. It will begin premium processing, and therefore the fifteen-day processing clock, on April 15, 2013.
For the remaining, non-premium, cap-subject H-1B petitions, USCIS is using a lottery procedure. According to an April 8 press release, USCIS selected the first 20,000 exempt petitions, those filed on behalf of advanced-degree holders, that it received. On April 7, 2013, it subjected the remaining petitions to “a computer-generated random selection process” or “lottery,” to select the 65,000 petitions for approval. It last used such a procedure in April 2008.
USCIS reports that it is still accepting and processing petitions filed for current H-1B visa holders to extend their time in the U.S. It is also accepting petitions to change current H-1B visa holders’ terms of employment, petitions to change employers, and petitions to work a second H-1B job concurrently.
The business immigration attorneys of Samuel C. Berger, P.C. represent immigrants, prospective immigrants, and businesses in New York and New Jersey. We help immigrants obtain visas and green cards through employment, and we help businesses petition for skilled immigrant employees. Contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117 to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our legal team.
More Blog Posts:
Immigration Authorities Have Allegedly Undercounted H-1B Visas Since 2008, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 20, 2012
Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down New York State Law Preventing H-1B Visa Holders and Temporary Workers From Obtaining Pharmacy Licenses, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, October 5, 2012
Almost Half of the Applications for H1-B Visas are from Computer Companies; New York Leads the Demand for Skilled Immigrants, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 19, 2012
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