The annual H-1B Cap Season for U.S. companies (other than institutions of higher education and non-profit research institutions) will be opening in less than three months! Predictions are this Season will be another lottery like it has been in the last few years. Private industry employers will likely have five (5) days to file H-1B visa petitions for start dates on or after October 1, 2017, when the 2018 Fiscal Year (FY) begins.
Each FY, 65,000 H-1Bs become available for what is referred to as the “General Cap” and 20,000 are available under the “Master’s Cap” for a total of 85,000 available H-1B visa numbers. Foreign nationals holding a U.S. Master’s degree or higher fall into the Master’s Cap while all others are attributed to the General Cap category. The H-1B filing season opens six months before the beginning of the FY provided that it falls on a weekday; this year it is April 3, 2017.
Last year, US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) received over 236,000 petitions in five (5) days for the 85,000 available H-1B visas which necessitated a lottery to select the petitions that would be awarded a Cap H-1B visa number. After the start of the most recent recession, the demand for H-1Bs decreased dramatically, resulting in significantly longer Cap Seasons. Now that the U.S. economy has recovered and demand for new hires has continued its upswing, this H-1B Cap season is expected to be no different than the last.
The days of March madness, where employers scramble to prepare and perfect their petitions before the filing window closes, have returned. Now, the speculation is about when these days are going to end. Private industry employers wishing to secure a FY 2018 H-1B Cap number should be prepared to file their petitions no later than April 3, 2017 or risk having to wait until October 1, 2018 before new non-immigrant professional workers can be hired.