U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it has reached the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2016. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption. The agency said it received a “high number” of visa petitions, but did not have a final count.
According to the immigration agency, the number of applications for both the H-1B programs has exceeded the number of visas available, necessitating a lottery draw. “USCIS will use a computer-generated process, also known as the lottery, to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption.”
The USCIS statement 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,” it said adding that the agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings.
Before running the lottery, USCIS will complete initial intake for all filings received during the filing period, which ended today. Due to the high number of petitions, USCIS is not yet able to announce the date it will conduct the random selection process.
The statement said 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 congressionally mandated 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. They also go to workers in advertising, architecture and other fields. Supporters of the program say H-1B workers fill jobs for which there aren’t enough qualified Americans, and companies in the high-tech sector have lobbied for its expansion.
There have been attempts to raise the cap in recent past. A legislative proposal to raise the annual cap to 110,000 in 2013 didn’t succeed, as Congress couldn’t agree on an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system.