FY2017 H-1B Cap Lottery Completed
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the fiscal year (FY) 2017 H-1B cap was reached as of April 7, 2016. The agency will reject and return with the filing fees non-duplicate cap-subject petitions that were not selected.
USCIS received more than 236,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period that began on April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 12, 2016, USCIS completed a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and 20,000 cap under the advanced-degree exemption. The agency conducted the selection process first for the advanced-degree exemption. All advanced-degree petitions not selected then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.
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 will not be counted toward the congressionally mandated FY2017 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.
Premium processing. USCIS also announced that it would begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases by May 16, 2016. USCIS provides premium processing service for certain employment-based petitions and guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing time.
USCIS will continue to accept Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, with fee, concurrently with the Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, while premium processing is unavailable. Petitioners may also upgrade a pending H-1B cap petition to premium processing once USCIS issues a receipt notice.
While the Form I-797, Notice of Action (receipt notice), indicates the date USCIS received the premium processing fee, the 15-day processing period will begin by May 16. This allows USCIS to take in the anticipated high number of filings, conduct the lottery to determine which cases meet the cap, and prepare the volume of cases for premium and regular processing.
The 15-day processing period for premium processing service for H-1B petitions that are not subject to the cap, or for any other eligible classification, continues to begin on the date that the request is received.
F-1 students and the “cap-gap.” The period of time when an F-1 student’s status and work authorization expire through the start date of his or her approved H-1B employment period is known as the “cap-gap.”
The cap-gap occurs because an employer may not file, and USCIS may not accept, an H-1B petition submitted more than six months in advance of the date of actual need for the beneficiary’s services or training. As a result, the earliest date that an employer can file an H-1B cap-subject petition is April 1, for the following fiscal year, starting October 1. If USCIS approves the H-1B petition and the accompanying change of status request, the earliest date that the student may start the approved H-1B employment is October 1.
Current regulations allow certain students with pending or approved H-1B petitions to remain in F-1 status during the cap-gap period. This is referred to as filling the “cap-gap,” meaning the regulations provide a way of filling the “gap” between the end of F-1 status and the beginning of H-1B status that might otherwise occur if F-1 status is not extended for qualifying students.