Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) May 24, 2017 – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) declared that enough H-1B petitions had been received to meet the annual cap of 65,000 for the 2018 fiscal year. The agency also said that the “Master’s cap” of 20,000 additional spots for foreign nationals holding advanced degrees, had been met as well.
The H-1B program is used by U.S. businesses to hire foreign workers in occupations requiring specialized knowledge, and the program is under increased scrutiny. On April 18, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order calling for a complete review of the program, alleging that some employers have abused the program and used it to avoid hiring U.S. workers.
“With the suspension of Premium Processing for this H-1B season – where employers could request and pay for a speedy 15 day case adjudication –, ominous pronouncements from the Justice Department regarding employers who may be alleged to discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of foreign ones, and USCIS statements regarding whether computer programmers actually require 4 year university degrees, and therefore even qualify for H-1B status, employers are justifiably nervous about how H-1B lottery winning cases will be treated,” said Stewart Rabinowitz, an immigration attorney with the Dallas Firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C.
USCIS reported that 199,000 H-1B petitions were received during the filing period, which started on April 3, 2017, including advanced degree petitions. On April 11, 2017, the agency used a computerized random lottery system to select enough petitions to meet the Congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 H-1B petitions, and the 20,000 Master’s cap. All petitions not selected will be rejected and the filing fees will be returned. USCIS conducted the selection process for the master’s cap first, and any unselected advanced degree petitions were then part of the selection process for the 65,000 cap.
USCIS said that it would continue to handle petitions that are exempt from the cap, but the agency noted that its Premium Processing program was suspended for up to six months beginning on April 3, 2017. The agency said that Premium Processing was suspended to reduce overall H-1B processing times. Petitioners who meet the criteria for expedited processing may still request it.
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