The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) division of the Department of Homeland Security has announced that it received enough H-1B petitions during the first five business days of the filing period for the FY2014 H-1B “season” that ended on Friday, April 5 to satisfy the annual cap.
By law, H-1B visas are limited to 20,000 for those holding a U.S. Master’s degree and approximately 65,000 other individuals of extraordinary ability (those who possess, by education and/or experience, at least the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s Degree). Each putative nonimmigrant H-1B beneficiary must be sponsored by a petitioning employer, and offered employment into a “specialty occupation” (generally meaning a position that requires at least the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree for entry). A large number of H-1B visas go to those in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. The fiscal year for H-1B visas runs from October 1 – September 30, and filings are received by USCIS no earlier than 180 days prior to the start of the fiscal year. This year’s H-1B filing “season” began on April 1, 2013 for the October 1, 2013 – September 30, 2014 fiscal year (FY2014).
Because USCIS received more than 20,000 petitions for beneficiaries with a U.S. Master’s Degree and more than 65,000 petitions for others of extraordinary ability during the first five business days of the filing season, two lotteries will be held to determine which beneficiaries will be awarded H-1B visas. The first lottery will determine which beneficiaries will be awarded one of the 20,000 H-1B visas set aside for those holding a U.S. Master’s degree. Those who are unsuccessful in the first lottery will then join the remaining putative beneficiaries in the second lottery for the remaining H-1B visas. This is the first time USCIS has held a lottery since 2008 (FY2009), a sign some observers see of an improving economy. By comparison, in FY2010, visas remained available until January 2011, in FY2011, visas remained until November 2011, and in FY2012, visas remained available until June 2012.
Proposals to modify the existing H-1B visa program, including increasing the number of available visas, have been discussed among congress as part of Immigration Reform. We will report back with any developments as information becomes available. In the meantime, if you have questions about the H-1B program or employment-based immigration, please give Pat Peters a call at (216) 363-4434.
– Pat Peters