Published February 20, 2019

April 1 of each calendar year marks the first day anxious employers are eligible to submit H-1B work visa petitions so as to have a chance to employ a qualified foreign worker for the start of the coming, new fiscal year – which starts on October 1.   Some of the workers are already in the U.S., including the many who have just completed their degrees and are already working pursuant to a time limited, general Employment Authorization Document, while others are abroad waiting for a chance to enter and work in the U.S.   The annual available supply of H-1B visas is capped by statute at 85,000.  U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services receives roughly 3 times as many petitions each year, and a lottery must be conducted to determine which lucky H-1B petitioners will have their filings considered.

Toward the goal of more efficiently managing the overflow demand each year, DHS/CIS previously announced a plan to implement a registration system whereby intending H-1B employers would enter the visa lottery selection process without actually having to prepare and submit a filing.   However, contrary to what was announced in recent months, the implementation of the new registration system will not be implemented until fiscal year 2021, which means April 1, 2020 for intending H-1B filers.

As to the other proposed change regarding the order of selecting H-1B petitions from overflow demand, the plan remains in place.   More specifically, of the 85,000 new H-1B visas released annually for foreign workers and their prospective U.S. employers, 20,000 are designated to be issued to graduates of advanced degree programs in the U.S. (masters or higher, a.k.a. Masters Cap).  From all filings received, DHS/CIS will pick the first 65,000 from the general pool of ALL petitioned workers, and then conduct a second lottery  – but from a pool of only U.S. masters degrees or higher workers, for the remaining 20,000 advance degree visas (Masters Cap) supply.   The impact of this change is that petitions for those with U.S. masters degrees or higher will have a better chance of being selected for consideration – with the first bite from the general supply of 65,000, and then one more time, from the supply specially designated for the U.S. masters or higher graduates.  DHS/CIS foresees this new order of selection will lead to the issuance of approximately 5,000 more visas to those with U.S. advanced degrees compared to past years.

As a reminder, the H-1B visa petition process is available to companies seeking to facilitate the legal employment of a foreign national who has the equivalent of a U.S. university degree (including by way of years of experience) and who will be filling a specialty or professional position, one that typically requires the worker to have attained a university education, i.e. Bachelors Degree or higher.


PUBLISHED February 20, 2019– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2019, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois