UPDATE: H-1B CAP SEASON FOR FY 2016-17 IS OVER! CHECK OUT “THE COMPLETE GUIDE ON H-1B VISA 2017-18 NEWS, QUOTA, LOTTERY PREDICTIONS“
The H-1B visa is a highly sought-after immigration option for those who seek to work in the United States. If you applied for the H-1B visa 2016 season and were not selected, the good news is you can apply again to receive a visa during the H-1B visa 2017 season!
As the official window draws nearer, be aware that the Offices of SGM Law Group will be publishing additional material related to the H-1B visa 2017 lottery process, quota, FAQs and more, so stay tuned. In this complete guide, we’ll specifically be addressing the H-1B 2017 cap, basic lottery facts and our predictions based on past years.
The H-1B visa 2016 lottery brought with it many approvals for hopeful applicants. An astounding 233,000 petitions were received from the beginning of the season, April 1, until the final completion day on April 7, 2015. The selection process, completely computer automated, randomly selected petitions on April 13th in order to meet the cap.
It’s worth mentioning the the number of petitions received last year (H-1B 2016 cap season) were far greater than those received in the previous season (H-1B 2015 cap season). It leads us to believe a large number will also be submitted for the H-1B visa 2017 lottery given the continued improvement in US economy.
Can We Expect an H-1B 2017 Lottery?
Based on the past few years, it’s reasonable to predict that we will see another lottery for FY 2017. From FY 2014 all the way to 2016 there was a lottery in the first week of April for the Regular Cap as well as the Advanced degree Cap.
Why do we expect a large number of filings for the upcoming FY? There are a number of factors that could potentially play into the number of applications filed. However, the most prominent reasons are:
- Increased demand for these visas considering the U.S. job market improvements over the past three years.
- Those applicants who were not randomly selected in the last lottery will have the ability to apply again.
- Changes in some restrictions to L visas as well as B visas result in a greater preference on behalf of companies for H-1B petitions.
Moreover, we expect the H-1B visa cap 2016-2017 to remain open for no more than 5 business days.
Understanding the Basics – H-1B Visa 2017 Cap
If you haven’t yet met with an H-1B visa attorney, it’s important to understand the basics of how the process works. Under the normal or regular cap 65,000 petitions will be selected in addition to 20,000 petitions under the advanced degree exemption.
The way the process works is that the computer will first select 20,000 advanced degree petitions from the pool of eligible candidates (with US Masters degrees). After that, those candidates not picked will be transferred into the main pool for the regular H-1B cap.
Then, the second selection will take place; 65,000 from the regular cap pool. From the aforementioned total, 6,800 will be set aside for citizens of chile and Singapore, in alignment with the free trade agreement.
Cap Exempt Petitions
Cap exempt petitions are those which were previously counted against the cap, are used or intended to extend an H-1B employee’s time in the country, or intended to change the terms for current H-1B employees (responsibilities, location, duties, etc.). In addition, certain position with qualified employers are not subject to the H-1B annual quota even if the candidate has not been counted against the cap previously.
According to USCIS, the quota cap count is the maximum number of petitions that will be accepted for that year. H-1B visas are dedicated to foreign professionals in specialty occupations that include:
- financial analysts
Last year, out of all the petitions that were received, only 65,000 were selected to meet the quota cap count. The same measures are in place this year and include:
- 65,000 for Regular H-1B Quota
- 20,000 H-1B Masters Degree Quota (limited to U.S. Degrees)
- From the aforementioned total, 6,800 are reserved for citizens of Singapore and Chile based on the free trade agreement.
Preparing for H-1B Lottery in 2016
This year, USCIS will begin accepting applications for H-1B visa 2017 on April 1st, 2016. Note that USCIS stated in the rejected notices for H-1B 2016 that non-selected applicants can file petitions for the Fiscal Year 2017 on or after April 1, 2016.
Is it too early to start prepping?
It is not too soon to begin taking steps in preparation for H-1B visa 2017 season. The first step is to contact a qualified H-1B visa lawyer who can help you determine your eligibility and gather the necessary paperwork from the petitioning employer.
If you’re a skilled professional working outside the United States and desire to work in the US, then finding the appropriate US company to sponsor you is the first step. Individuals who are on H-4 visas or L-1 visas would also need to find a US based employer willing to sponsor them.
If You’re an F-1 Student.…
If you are currently a student and planning on graduating in the near future then it’s best to consider getting an internship/job with a U.S. based company. Research H-1B visa sponsors to get a clear indication about the types of positions available and the time frame for selection.
Note that if you withdraw from school while on an F-1 visa, you do not have the 60 day grace period that other visas benefit from. Some institutions strictly state on their websites that if you drop out or withdraw without approval from the International Office you’ll need to leave the United States immediately.
Tips for Finding an H-1B Visa Sponsor
What we’ve found is that the process to identify an H-1B sponsor is relatively simple if you’re in the United States as a student and already have local ties to the community. However, if you’re like most applicants and are overseas as a skilled professional then it’s a bit more challenging to find a sponsoring employer.
Filing Fees for H-1B
There are several component of the H-1B visa fees such as, Standard fee, ACWIA Training fee, Fraud Prevention fee, Public Law 111-230 fee etc. The exact filing fees for the upcoming season will vary from one individual’s case to the next. For instance, depending on the size of the company the fees may differ as well as your attorney’s fee for filing the petition on your behalf.
Premium processing is an option that you may want to discuss with your lawyer depending on your case. Premium processing applies to both the advanced degree cap as well as the regular cap and once it is issued, you’ll receive a receipt number.
What is Premium Processing?
You typically need to wait minimum three months to find out whether your petition is approved or rejected when you opt for the regular processing route. The premium processing option for an H-1B visa allows you to get an answer (either approval or rejection) in approx. 2 weeks. For this expedited service, however, you have to pay an additional fee.
What happens after the selection?
The petitions which are randomly selected will be sent to the adjudicating sevice center. From there an EAC number will be issued as a way to monitor the status of your case. The primary three letters are alphabetical and tell you the location name of the service center in which your visa petition was processed.
For instance, LIN would correlate to Lincoln, Nebraska service center. The two numbers following these three letters indicate the year. Followed by the day and finally the five last digits are your case number. Here’s an example of what your EAC number may look like: LIN-17-214-73499.
If you have any additional questions in regards to checking the status of your petition once filed, it’s best to contact the immigration attorney who filed your H-1B petition.
What if my petition was not selected? What are the next steps?
In the event that your petition isn’t selected in the H-1B visa 2017 lottery then USCIS is responsible for returning you filing fee. However, if it’s determined to be a duplicate filing, then your petition will be returned without the filing fee. If you receive a response that says “wait listed” that basically means it may replace a petition that was initially selected but later found to be ineligible or denied.
In the grace period (60 days) can you file in April for an H1?
The employer can file your H1 throughout the sixty day grace period. If selected in the FY 2017 lottery, you will be eligible for what’s known as the cap-gap, which basically allows you to stay in the United States until Octover 1st or the H1 denial date, depending on which one occurs first.
The lawyers at SGM Law Group expect to receive receipt number for those petitions with premium processing starting in April 2016. We will make any new information available to you as it comes.
Common Issues/Mistakes to Avoid
- Insufficient Job Description: A number of factors can contribute to a filing error and this includes a deficient job description. The best way to avoid this mistake is to carefully review the job description with your lawyer to ensure that it qualifies as a specialty occupation.
- Delays with the LCA Certification: In some scenarios, the iCert system may not recognize an employer or company’s FEIN. If this is the case, then there needs to be pre-verification before an LCA can successfully be submitted. (Takes 1-5 days more or less). The best way to avoid this is to prepare early and submit your LCA early so any corrective measures can be made.
- Not determining employee’s prior status: If the foreign national previously had H-1B status through an exempt employer then they may not have been counted against the cap. Someone transferring from a cap exempt employer to a cap-subject employ must have a new cap-subject H-1B petition filed on April 1st. The best way to avoid this mistake is to ensure that the foreign national has or has not been counted against the cap to begin with.
- Choosing the wrong start date on the I-129: Be sure to double check that the correct start date is listed on the I-129 as well as wages, and other details.
- Filing with the wrong service center: Any petition that does not include the required fees will be rejected. Likewise, those sent to the wrong USCIS Service Center may not be properly processed. It’s important to include separate checks for each filing fee and check that they are all signed.
Learn more tips for H-1B approval and mistakes to avoid
H-1B Transfer Requirements
If you’re contemplating an H-1B transfer (Chage of H-1B employer) then the requirements differ a bit from the traditional H-1B visa lottery. Based on the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC-21), a foreign national worker may file for an H-1B transfer on the basis that they have not accrued unlawful presence. Below are the documents necessary for an H-1B transfer to take place:
- You’ll need a copy of the job offer with details that include salary, job title and the necessary signatures
- Recent pay stubs and/or a letter which demonstrates your proof of employment
- Academic degree copies and/or transcripts and diplomas
- A recent resume
- Copies of social security card, pages in passport and W2’s if it applies
Is the position your vying for cap exempt? Take a look at this post for H-1B Cap Exempt jobs!
H-1B Transfer After October 1st
Are you desiring an H-1B transfer but waited until after October 1st? This is possible but in order to file you must be able to prove that you were working for your original H-1B employer when the transfer was filed in October or thereafter. This type of documentation may include a letter from your first company.
Period of Stay for H-1B Visa
As a non-immigrant on a H-1B visa, you are initially admitted for up to three years. It is possible for this time period to be extended by filiing through the proper channels, however you cannot go beyond a total of six years. There are certain exceptions that apply under sections of 104(c) and 106(a) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21).
Be aware that the sponsoring employer is supposed to be responsible for the costs of return transportation should they end your employment before the end of your “authorized period”. Should you resign on your own behalf though, the employer is not responsible for costs related to return transportation.
H-1B 2016 FAQs
Below are frequently asked questions we receive regarding the H-1B lottery season.
Q. Are all H-1B 2017 petitions processed in the same time?
Not necessarily. There are often cases where H-1B petitions are filed at the exact same time but they are approved in different time frames. Why does this happen? Individual USCIS service centers each have their own workload meaning there’s no guarantee that the petitions will be filed in the same speed. If you are interested in expediting the process, you can elect to rush your case via premium processing.
Q. Once I receive H-1B status, can I work with my employer anywhere in the country?
The work site you intend to work at is explicitly included on your petition so when you receive an approval notice, USCIS has taken into consideration the prevailing wage for that area. In the event that the work site changes, you are responsible for providing an amendment which includes certification of the new work location.
Q. Can I speed up my H-1B transfer?
Normally, transfers mimic the process of new H-1B petitions with the difference being that a transfer isn’t subject to the cap since the person already holds H-1B status. To expedite your process, consider premium processing.
Q. Which fees (if any) are my employer responsible for paying?
Your employer should be paying training fees if they apply and the fraud fee. Passing the burden onto you (the employee) for these fees is strictly prohibited.
Q. What are the H-1B 2017 Fees?
- Fraud prevention and detection fee
- Filing fee
- Premium processing (if you choose)
- Employer sponsorship fee
Click here for more information.
Contact Our Lawyers For A Timely and Effective Filing of Your H-1B 2017 Petition
The attorneys at SGM Law Group are dedicated to securing the most favorable outcome for all of their clients. We have an excellent track record in complex H-1B cases as well as transfer or extensions. As a benefit to our clients, we offer a highly competitive flat filing fee and timely updates regarding the status of your case.
What’s more, we do not charge an extra fee for responding to one RFE. We need to emphasize the importance of filing on-time because employers who miss filing in April 2016 will not be able to welcome new employees until Oct. 1, 2017.
Ready for your free consultation for H-1B Visa 2017 season?
Fill out our free consultation form to go over the details of your case and any documentation we may need. We may discuss approaches to take in regards to your industry as well as filing components you should have in place.