January 14, 2016 – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced the opening of the annual H-1B filing window for the first 5 business days of April, 2016. Green and Spiegel anticipates that, as in past years, the H-1B category will be heavily subscribed this year.
The H-1B classification is most often used to transfer foreign students working pursuant to Optional Practical Training (OPT) status to that of professional worker (H-1B). It can also be used for foreign nationals residing outside the United States that possess a bachelor level education or higher that you would like to employ in the United States.
The H-1B classification is subject to an annual cap of 65,000 visa numbers, with an additional 20,000 slots being made available to individuals holding U.S. Master’s Degrees (or a higher degree). These numbers are allocated by USCIS’ fiscal year (which starts on October 1, 2016).
H-1B petitions subjected to this annual cap must have a start date no earlier than October 1. As the USCIS will not accept a filing more than six months in advance of the requested start date, this means that all cap-subject H-1B filings must be submitted during the first 5 business days of April 2016.
Recent years have shown a dramatic increase in demand for the H-1B category, with USCIS reporting that it received approximately 233,000 petitions in April 2015 and 172,500 in April 2014.
With only 85,000 available cap numbers, petitions submitted during the past three cap seasons were subjected to random computerized lotteries to determine which filings would be accepted for processing. This cap only applies to “new” H-1B applicants and does not impact current H-1B visa holders.
While it is still too early to make a firm forecast regarding this year’s H-1B cap “season,” it appears as though demand for the H-1B category will remain high, with a strong chance that the cap will be met by the close of the five-day filing window. As such, Green and Spiegel anticipates that USCIS will once again need to conduct a lottery to determine which filings are accepted under this year’s H-1B cap. However, and importantly, we are predicting that the number of filings will be less than last year – which should lend to a higher number of cases being selected in the lottery.
We encourage individuals and companies interested in making a petition for the H-1B to contact our office as soon as possible for an assessment of their case.