Preparing for H-1B Cap Season

H-1B cap season is nearly upon us, and it’s in your best interest to get a head start on preparing your petition to ensure a timely submission.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting H-1B applications for FY 2019 on April 2nd, 2018. The H-1B Regular quota is 65,000 visas, and the H-1B Master’s quota is 20,000 visas.

If more than 65,000 petitions are submitted during the first five days of the acceptance period, USCIS uses a lottery system to select applicants. The lottery system is conducted through a random, computer-generated process. The likelihood of the need for a lottery is high – for FY 2017, USCIS received 236,000 H-1B applications within five days of opening application acceptance, and 199,000 applications for FY 2018.

In the case of a lottery, USCIS handles it in two segments. First is the lottery for individuals qualifying for the 20,000 set aside for those with advanced U.S. degrees. Once that lottery is complete, any unselected in the advanced cap are put into the regular lottery of 65,000. USCIS will issue receipt notices on cases selected in the lottery. We expect to start seeing receipt notices toward the end of April, and more steadily through May. Unfortunately, USCIS does not begin issuing rejection notices on cases not selected in the lottery until most receipts have gone out, so there tends to be a period of uncertainty toward the end of May and into June.

USCIS has telegraphed that there will be a higher level of scrutiny on case review than we have seen in years past. We are aware of the areas of emphasis and will plan to prepare cases accordingly to reduce the number of requests for evidence and avoid denials.

For the greatest chance of obtaining an H-1B, the most important step is timely filing. In the weeks and months leading up to the April 2nd acceptance date, be sure to stay on top of all required paperwork. The attorney handling your case can help guide you through the process and keep you informed of everything that is needed before submitting. Setting aside a reasonable amount of time to get required forms completed thoroughly will save you plenty of stress come April 2nd.