As expected, the USCIS announced on Friday, that it had reached the cap for new H-1b cases during the first five days of April and a lottery will be held. If last year is any indication, we should start to receive receipts for those lucky few within the next 2 weeks. More updates will be provided as they become available.
The H-1b cap lottery is only 8 weeks away. HLG will be hosting an informative conference call on Tues Feb 6th at 2:00 pm eastern for its clients and friends. Registration is free. For more information and to register, follow this link.
On May 31, 2017, USCIS released a memo clarifying that to be eligible for an H-1B cap exemption based on a Master’s Degree, the school from where the beneficiary obtained their degree has to have been a U.S. “institution of higher education” when the degree was earned. The policy memo cites to Matter of A-T- Inc., an “adopted decision,” meaning the decision is binding policy guidance for all USCIS personnel.
As you probably know, there are only 65,000 H-1B visas available under the cap each year, with an additional 20,000 for people who have earned a master’s degree or higher in the U.S. In their decision, the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) stated, “[U]nder our interpretation, an individual who earns a degree from a (pre-)accredited institution may continue to qualify for the Master’s Cap exemption even if the institution later closes or loses its (pre-)accreditation status.”
This will be an important memo to keep in mind as USCIS has, in some instances, gone back and reviewed a beneficiary’s initial H1B petition – and which cap they were counted under – while adjudicating a current extension. Even when the beneficiary has been in the U.S. for over 5 years.
The USCIS announced that it received 236,000 H-1b cap petitions filed for the 85,000 spots available. They have completed the lottery process and have started to issue receipts. Last year, it took almost 4 weeks for all receipts to be issued. Premium processing cases will begin to be processed on May 16, 2016.
In news that surprised no one, the USCIS announced today that it had received a sufficient number of filings to reach both the 20,000 U.S. masters quota and the 65,000 regular quota thus requiring that a lottery will be held. They went on to state that they did not know when the lottery would be conducted due to the large number of filings received. Stay tuned for further updates.
Today, April 1st, marks the first day that H-1b cap petitions can be filed seeking a new H-1b visa from the FY 2017 quota. The quota is set at 85,000 total with 20,000 being set-aside for persons with US masters degrees or higher. All H-1b petitions must be filed by a US employer and the pay offered must meet the prevailing wage established by the DOL. All individuals who have filings done for them must have at least a bachelor’s level education. The majority of filings are for STEM positions. As a result of demand exceeding supply, the USCIS has created a lottery system and all filings received in the first 5 business days of April will be included in a random drawing for the coveted visas. The lottery is typically held the 3rd week of April and those petitions lucky enough to be chosen are then processed. Those cases not selected in the lottery are returned to the employers who filed them. Last year, over 220,000 petitions were submitted. Many are expecting over 250,000 this year. The fact that the US immigration policy allows for the selection of highly skilled workers, most filling STEM related, hard to fill positions, by random chance is absurd. Unfortunately, the anti-immigration far right led by Grassley, Cruz, and Sessions have thwarted any attempts to reform the legal immigration system into a system that does a better job of selecting international workers while still protecting US jobs. It is as if they actually are in favor of the status quo i.e. dysfunction as it gives them something to beat their chest about. The rhetoric coming from the Presidential race indicates that we will be left with the lottery for some time.
USCIS recently announced that it received 233,000 cap-subject H-1b petitions for the 2016 fiscal year. Initially, it stated that it would begin adjudicating cases that were filed through the premium processing service on May 11th, 2015. However, USCIS has updated this date to April 27th, 2015. The delay in reviewing these cases that were submitted through premium processing is due to the historic premium processing receipt requests.
Today is the 1st day that the USCIS will accept H-1b cap cases for FY 2016. The USCIS is expecting over 200,000 cases will be received in the first 5 business days of April. All of these cases will be entered into a lottery from which 85,000 lucky petitions will be chosen and processed. The USCIS will post updates on the number of petitions received, when the lottery will be held, when receipt notices will be issued and when premium processing will start. We will also update you as developments occur.
Last week, Computerworld published comments from Senator Hatch in which he essentially called out Senator Grassley for being a protectionist and simply ignoring the economic realties of the global marketplace that exists in 2015 by virtue of his plan to prevent an increase in the H-1b cap without including unnecessary and onerous requirements. The proposals of Senator Grassley, though seemingly reasonable on the surface, would essentially destroy the H-1b visa particularly for IT staffing companies who are a large user of the H-1b program. Given Senator Grassley’s history of attacks on the staffing industry, his position should not be a surprise. It is refreshing to see Senator Hatch take a pro business and pro American position however, given Senator Grassley’s position as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he may have sufficient power to single-handedly prevent business immigration reform from happening. It should be noted that both Senators are Republicans and senior members of the Senate so this type of public exchange is a bit unusual. The back drop of this discussion is the upcoming April 1st H-1b cap lottery filing deadline at which, literally 1000’s of professionals, many of them with U.S. graduate degrees, hired by U.S. employers, will be rejected and told that their services are not wanted in the U.S. Last year, over 85,000 professional workers were rejected and many think this year, there will be even more. The 85,000 rejected workers would’ve been tax-paying productive workers and as countless economic studies have shown, H-1b workers serve to create U.S. jobs, not eliminate them. The continued insistence by politicians such as Senator Grassley, on building walls, rather than building the American economy remains troubling. The foreign outsourcing industry is grateful for his efforts though.
While many are closely following the threats by the new Republican controlled Congress to defund some of the provisions of President Obama’s recent Executive Order, many others in the hi-tech community are closely following whether an increase in the H-1b cap may occur.