USCIS Completes H-1B Lottery Selection Process

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it has completed the H-1B lottery process for non-cap exempt employers.  The agency received over 236,000 applications for approximately 85,000 slots.

The system is flawed. The annual H-1B lottery process highlights the failure of Congress to meet the needs of employers nationally, as well as the administrative shortfalls of an agency stuck in the 20th century. The severe shortage of available slots, in an already expensive and highly regulated process, shows how unconnected the rhetoric on H-1Bs in Congress is to the business realities American employers face.

As an immigration attorney, I find the administrative dysfunction of USCIS on H-1B handling appalling.  The agency could very reasonably hold an electronic lottery for those who wish to apply, and then issue tickets or permissions-to-file for those selected.  If they did, employers could save substantially in time and money invested in preparing full applications.  After weeks of discussion and preparation, I do not enjoy telling clients that their application was not selected. Further, with a pre-lottery system, the Department of Labor would not need to field 236,00 applications for labor condition applications, and USCIS would save on all the costs related to handling the petitions it receives. Reports are the agency receives truckloads of petitions on April 1st each year. Welcome to bureaucracy, I suppose.

Enough with my rant. Here is USCIS’s announcement today on completing the selection process:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 7, 2016, that it has received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for fiscal year (FY) 2017. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption, also known as the master’s cap.

USCIS received over 236,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 9, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees, unless the petition is found to be a duplicate filing.

The agency conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All unselected advanced degree petitions then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.

As announced on March 16, 2016, USCIS will begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases no later than May 16, 2016.

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 also not be counted towards the congressionally mandated FY 2017 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.

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