On April 1, 2016, employers may begin filing fiscal year 2017 H-1B visa petitions for individuals to begin H-1B employment on October 1, 2016. Congress places a cap of approximately 65,000 on the number of new H-1B’s available each year. There is also a separate cap of 20,000 new H-1B’s available for individuals who have a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. college or university.
Generally, any petition for an individual who is currently in H-1B status or has held H-1B status within the past six years is not subject to the cap, although there are some rare exceptions. In addition, certain types of employers are exempt from the H-1B cap, such as nonprofit research organizations and nonprofit entities that are affiliated with a U.S. college or university.
In each of the past few years, USCIS received enough petitions to exceed these caps within the first week, and we expect that the cap will again be reached during the initial filing period this year. Therefore, employers must identify any individuals for whom they might want to obtain H-1B status and file those petitions as early as possible for the best chance at getting one of the available visas. This is particularly critical for any recent graduates who are currently working pursuant to Optional Practical Training (OPT), and for employees who might be nearing the maximum limit on their current status, such as R-1 religious workers or L-1 intracompany transferees.
If you are an employer or potential employee and you have questions about the H-1B cap or the H-1B visa category, please contact us.
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