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H-1B Cap Frequently Asked Questions

What is the H-1B Cap?

Under U.S. immigration law, there is an annual limit on the number of new H-1B petitions that can be granted.  This annual limit is referred to as the "H-1B Cap."

How Many H-1B Visas are Available?

The total annual limit is 65,000.  However, 6,800 of these numbers are reserved for citizens of Chile and Singapore pursuant to trade treaties.  So, the H-1B Cap is effectively 58,200.  In the past, the H-1B cap had been raised to as high as 195,000, but the cap-raising legislation expired and Congress has not renewed it.

What is the H-1B Cap Fiscal Year? 

The H-1B cap is calculated based on the USCIS fiscal year, which starts on October 1 and ends on September 30.  October 1, 2017 marks the start of Fiscal Year 2018.

When can H-1B Petitions be Filed?

H-1B petitions subject to the H-1B cap can be filed no more than six months before the start of a fiscal year. For Fiscal Year 2018, the first available filing date is April 3, 2017. Starting on this date, employers can file H-1B petitions requesting a start date no earlier than the first day of Fiscal Year 2018, or October 1, 2017.  

Which H-1B Petitions Fall are Counted in the H-1B Cap? 

Generally speaking, only petitions requesting "new" H-1B status are counted in the H-1B cap.  This includes petitions for employees outside the U.S., and for individuals in the U.S. in another immigration status (typically F-1 students, TN workers or H-4 dependents) who are seeking to change status to H-1B.

Which H-1B Petitions are Not Covered by the H-1B Cap?

A petition filed on behalf of an employee who is already in H-1B status with one employer, and is seeking to change to another employer, is not normally subject to the H-1B cap.  Also, H-1B petitions filed by certain exempt employers (colleges/universities and certain non-profit organizations) are not subject to the H-1B cap.  
H-1B petitions that are not subject to the H-1B cap can be filed at any time during the year regardless of whether the H-1B cap has been exhausted or not.

What is the H-1B Masters Cap?

The first 20,000 petitions received from employees with U.S. Masters or Ph.D degrees are exempted from the H-1B cap.  The qualifying degree must be possessed at the time of filing, but need not be a minimum job requirement for the offered position.  

How Long Does it Take to Fill the H-1B Cap?

Last year, USCIS received 236,000 H-1B petitions for the 65,000 available H-1B visa numbers during the initial five-day filing period.  As a result, a random lottery was conducted to award the available numbers, and the petitions not selected were rejected and returned.  The special cap for U.S.Masters/Ph.D graduates was also reached during the initial five-day filing window.

How Long Will it Take This Year? 

We expect that USCIS will again receive enough H-1B petitions to exceed the H-1B cap during the initial five-day filing period starting April 3, 2017.  If so, a random lottery would again be conducted.  We also expect the special cap for U.S. Masters/Ph.D graduates will be met during the initial five-day filing period.


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