U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) initiated a computer-generated random selection process– a lottery– to meet the caps for fiscal year (FY) 2017. In sum, USCIS received more than 236,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which concluded in under 10 days.
As expected, USCIS acceptance of the petitions was short-lived. The agency began acceptance of the petitions on April 1. Through an April 7 press release, the agency announced it had received a large enough pool of applicants– nearly one-quarter million– to reach the statutory 65,000 visas for FY 2017. The additional 20,000 H-1B advanced degree exemption had also been met in the onslaught of petitions.
USCIS began the random selection process on April 9 when it conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemptions first. Once officials had their pool of 20,000 in this category, all remaining advanced degree petitions became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 cap category.
USCIS rejects and returns all unselected petitions along with filing fees. The exception to this is when the petition is found to be a duplicate filing.
USCIS will begin premium processing for the H-1B caps no later than May 16.
USCIS also continues to accept and process otherwise exempt petitions. The agency also notes those H-1B visa workers previously against the cap aren’t counted towards the congressionally mandated FY 2017 H-1B cap.
USCIS continues to accept and process petitions for such things as extensions to remain in the United States for current H-1B workers or for a change in terms of employment. Petitions are also still accepted for current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.
H-1B visas are awarded to foreign workers in specialty occupations and require an established employer / employee relationship. H-1B visa petitioners must hold at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent for a position related to the field of study– usually science, technology, engineer or mathematics (STEM)– where a degree requirement is the norm.
USCIS provides more detailed information about the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program and current Form I-129 processing times, on the H-1B FY 2017 Cap Season Web page. Additional information is available from the National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 or 800-767-1833 (TDD for the hearing impaired).