With just over a week and a half before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, USCIS announced that it anticipates caps will likely be reached within the first week, sometime between April 1 and April 5. USCIS also anticipates that it may have to use the lottery system to select petitions for the first time since 2008. The lottery will be used to randomly select H-1B petitions if USCIS receives more petitions than it can accept on the final receipt date.

The H-1B nonimmigrant visa is available to foreign nationals with at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent coming to the U.S. to work in specialty occupations. There are 65,000 H-1B visas available each year. For individuals with master’s degrees or higher, the first 20,000 H-1B petitions received are exempt from the 65,000 cap. In recent years, the cap has not been reached nearly as quickly as it had prior to 2008. This year, however, it is especially important to get petitions filed early. Furthermore, USCIS will only accept petitions that are properly received and include the correct fee, so it is also imperative to get petitions filed correctly the first time. A mistake will almost surely result in missing the cap.

USCIS also announced that it will be adjusting its premium processing procedure in light of the anticipation that the cap will be reached so quickly. USCIS will accept such petitions as usual, but will not begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases until April 15, 2013. Premium processing is essentially an expedited processing service available for an extra fee.

For more information on the acceptance and filing of H-1B petitions for FY 2014, please see the USCIS announcement or contact, Bill Flynn, Board Certified Immigration and Nationality attorney.