As predicted, the window for filing new H-1B petitions for FY2015 did not stay open for long. After just five business days, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received sufficient H-1B petitions to use all available visas.
U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign nationals in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in a variety of fields including science, engineering, and computer programming. Only 65,000 H-1B visas were available for the FY2015 starting October 1, 2014. An additional 20,000 exemptions from the H-1B cap are offered for graduates of U.S. educational institutions with advanced degrees. Both caps for FY2015 were exceeded by April 7. USCIS estimates the total number of filings received at 172,500.
USCIS uses a random selection process to select petitions that will be receipted and processed for the next fiscal year. A lottery was conducted for the 20,000 advanced degree exemption allotment first, and then for the 65,000 general cap limitation.
This year’s H-1B filing window is now closed for private employers seeking new H-1B status for foreign professional employees, but private employers may still hire foreign professionals already in H-1B status for the unexpired portion of their initial six-year term, and may extend or modify the terms for existing H-1B employees. Certain employers are exempt from the annual H-1B filing cycle, including institutions of higher education and their affiliates, nonprofit research organizations, and governmental research organizations.
H-1B filing eligibility is complex, and timing issues are always a consideration. MSEC encourages members seeking to hire foreign professional workers to contact immigration attorneys Chris Bauer or Sherry Lin to consult on H-1B eligibility and other visa options that might be available.