As predicted by many in the profession, the H-1B filing cap was reached today.
On one hand, this is good news because reaching the H-1B cap this early into the season is an indicator that the economy is rebounding. This has been the shortest application period to date in the past five years.
However, this means that all applications filed through today will be subject to a lottery– a computer generated random selection process for all applications that were received through today, as in April 5, 2013. No H-1B applications will be accepted past April 5, 2013.
The H-1B cap is a major issue for employers looking to hire foreign workers. Due to the H-1 program’s popularity, the annual allotment of 65,000 slots is routinely filled just weeks (if not days) after USCIS begins accepting applications—leaving employers, and especially technology start-ups, unable to tap much of the pool of foreign labor on which they rely.
The I-Squared Act, a bipartisan bill that is pending in the Senate and would likely be attached to broader comprehensive immigration legislation, would create a floating cap for the H-1B as depicted by the Brookings Institute chart below:
Fluctuating the cap based on economic need would be a welcome change from the current fixed cap of 65,000 for regular H-1Bs, and 20,000 additional for H-1Bs filed on behalf of advanced degree holders. We can only hope that this legislation sees the light of day.
Premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions will begin on April 15, 2013. The USCIS has not yet announced the date of the lottery. Stay tuned for more information.