How USCIS Determines If an H-1B Petition Is Subject to the FY 2016 Cap?
As the FY 2016 H-1B season approaches, foreign nationals should brace themselves for the overwhelming elation or dismal despair of the dreaded visa lottery. For those who do not already know, USCIS uses the information provided on the H-1B Data Collection Supplement to determine if a FY 2016 H1B Petition is subject to the regular cap of 65,000 H-1B visas or if it is eligible for the 20,000 advanced-degree exemption for beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher.
A computer-generated process will randomly select the number of petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS conducts the advanced-degree selection process first. All advanced degree petitions not selected in the advanced-degree lottery will become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit. Then USCIS conducts the general lottery selection process. Of the 65,000 visas available under the regular cap, 6,800 are set aside for the H-1B1 program benefiting beneficiaries from Chile and Singapore. All petitions and filing fees not selected in the lottery system are returned to the petitioner.
When Will USCIS Begin to Accept H-1B Petitions for FY 2016?
April 1, 2015 is the first date USCIS will accept applications for the FY 2016 Visa Lottery. The reason April 1st is the first day H-1B petitions are accepted each year is the result of the U.S. Federal Government’s fiscal year. By USCIS regulation, it will not accept H-1B petitions filed more than 6 months in advance of the employment start date. Because of the federal fiscal-year cycle, visa numbers for the following year do not become available until October 1 of the current year. By way of example for FY 2016 visas, USCIS will not accept H-1B petitions until April 1, 2015 because the employment start date cannot be until October 1, 2015, when the FY 2016 visa numbers become available pursuant to the beginning of the new fiscal year.
What Can an F1 Student Do to Prepare for the H-1B Season?
For F1 students, choosing how to use OPT (Optional Practical Training) or CPT (Curricular Practical Training) is vital to securing H-1B sponsorship. Before accepting an OPT/CPT position, the F1 should research whether the company intends to sponsor H-1B visas. Another important point to note is whether the employer has a material understanding of the H-1B process and a strong track record of prior sponsorship. An F1 should also know what resources are made available to the employee throughout the process, such as access to legal advice, and what actions the employer takes on behalf of F1s who are not picked in the lottery. Finally, the F1 should inform himself or herself of employer requirements for permanent sponsorship in the form of a Green Card.
The F1 student should begin to compile a digital file of the documents necessary to support an H-1B Petition:
- Passport Information Page and Arrival/Departure Stamps
- I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
- Visa Stamps in Passport
- Bachelors and Masters Degree (or higher) and Transcripts
- Resume, Letters of Employment and Publication in Professional Journals
- Occupational Licenses, Programming Certification and Membership Credentials for Professional Organizations
- SEVIS Paperwork, Employment Authorization Documents, I-797 Notices of Action from USCIS