On April 1, 2015, the USCIS will begin accepting H1B petitions for the 2016 season. Based on past H1B seasons, the upcoming cap season will be available for at least five days and if there happens to be addition spots available after that time then the window will remain open until the remaining spots are filled.
Assuming that the H1B quota does not increase and subsequently demand doesn’t increase, we expect another lottery this year. Let’s take a look at the structure of this lottery system.
The H1B Visa Lottery Process
What most people associate as a “lottery” is in fact just a random selection process conducted on behalf of the USCIS. The process, based on previous years, is as follows:
- Each H1B petition that is submitted to the USCIS (previously 65,000 for the Regular Quota and 20,000 for the Masters Quota) receives a petition number (identifier). After each one is labeled, they are then divided into two groups–Masters Quota and Regular Quota.
- If the number of Masters petitions received exceeds 20,000 then the computer runs the random selection algorithm across the pool to meet the cap.
- The petitions in the Master’s Quota who didn’t get selected are added to the pool of regular petitions.
- In the Regular Quota H1B pool, if the number exceeds 65,000 (which is likely) then the algorithm is run again to select those at random.
- Letters will be sent out from the USCIS to all individuals with selected petitions. The next steps will then be taken to proceed with processing from adjudicating service centers.
- Those petitions not selected in either the Regular or Masters Quota will be sent back to the lawyer’s office or employers (with the fee). In the event that there were duplicate filings made, no fee will be given back.
- Selection petitioners will receive their tracking number to stay up-to-date on processing.
H1B Visa Quota Cap Count Recap
- Regular Quota: 65,000
- Masters Degree Quota: 20,000
- Other: Typically 6,800 are set aside for citizens of Singapore and Chile in cooperation with the free trade agreement.
The Planning Process
Since there has been increased scrutiny of L-1 petitions, many companies have instead opted for H1Bs which as a result has increased the overall demand. Furthermore, those who petitioned last year and did not get selected will likely file again this year. With that being said, it’s crucial to begin the planning process sooner rather than later .
If you are a student on an F1 visa (in the U.S.) it’s important you start looking for an internship or optional practical training (OPT) employment with an H1B sponsor. If you need help identifying one, periodically check the nationwide databases.
If you are on L1 status or another visa status at this time, start planning now by retaining an attorney who will tell you what documents are necessary.
Filing an H1B Cap-Subject Petition
To file an H1B cap-subject petition, complete the following steps:
- Fill out every section of Form I-129 petition. Consult legal help if you’re unsure how to do so.
- Check that each form has your original signature in black ink.
- Submit the paperwork along with a check or money order for the specified fee.
- Include all required paperwork/ evidence at the time of submission.
- Double check to make sure that your petition is going to the correct USCIS service center.
*Premium processing is available for employers seeking an expedited process (15 calendar days) by filing a Form I-907. Additional fees apply for this service.
H1B Visa Filing Fees
The petitioner or sponsoring employer is responsible for paying the fees to the USCIS and/ or any attorney related fees.
- Filing fee
- Fraud prevention and detection
- Employer sponsorship fee
- Premium Processing (when applicable)
According to the USCIS, separate checks are preferred for each filing fee (Form I-129, Premium processing, Fraud, ACWIA and Public Law 111-230).