The volume of H-1B applications submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and subject to the annual cap dropped for the second consecutive year under the Trump administration. Cap-subject H-1B filings have dropped nearly 20% since 2016.
Each year since 2014, the number of cap-subject H-1B petitions submitted had steadily risen, reaching a high of 236,000 in 2016. This year, the number of petitions dropped to 190,098, down from 199,000 in 2017. H-1B visas allow U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
Each year, USCIS caps the number of H-1B visas to for-profit companies at 85,000. Of those, USCIS reserves 20,000 for candidates with a master’s degree or higher. USCIS uses a computer-generated, random-selection process—or “lottery”—to choose enough petitions to reach the cap for candidates with advanced degrees first. Any unselected petitions from the advanced degrees group go into the regular lottery for the remaining 65,000 H-1Bs.
Last week, USCIS announced it had entered all the data from H-1B petitions selected in the lottery last April. USCIS has begun returning H-1B cap-subject petitions and fees that were not selected. However, USCIS says it cannot offer a time frame during which to expect a returned petition and fee.
Alternatives to H-1B
Added compliance requirements and restrictions put in place by the Trump administration has increased the time, effort, and cost of obtaining—and maintaining—H-1B visa status. Coupled with the H-1B lottery odds, employers appear to be increasingly pursuing other visa options not subject to a cap. Those visas include:
- O-1A visas, which enable a foreign professional with “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, education, or business, to temporarily live and work in the U.S.
- L-1A visas, which enable an employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its foreign offices to an existing U.S. office—or to set up a U.S. office—after that employee works for the company for 12 months or more.
- L-1B visas, which enable an employer to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge from a foreign office to an existing U.S. office—or to set up a U.S. office—after that employee works for the company for 12 months or more.
H-1B applications submitted by institutions of higher education or nonprofits affiliated with them, as well as nonprofit or government research organizations, are exempt from any cap. Cap-subject and cap-exempt H-1B filings combined increased more than 20% in 2017—the latest figure available—from 2016.
We Can Help
The Alcorn Immigration Law team believes immigration yields innovation. We help employers and their current or prospective employees—including recent graduates—with filing H-1B, O-1A, or L-1 petitions. We also help companies and individuals devise alternative strategies. Contact us for a consultation.