USCIS Completes Standard Lottery for FY 2020 H-1B Petitions
The H-1B program is highly popular and attracts thousands of foreign professionals every year. These professionals contribute greatly to the American economy, pushing innovation and supporting many different industries and sectors. Because of its popularity, the H-1B program is also quite competitive. Only roughly 1/3 of petitioners will receive the opportunity to officially apply for a visa. Yet, the payoff is great – the ability to work in the United States (U.S.) for 3-6 years. Further, many people who originally immigrate temporarily for H-1B visas become permanent residents.
In April 2019, the FY 2020 H-1B application window opened to new petitions. As expected, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received a massive influx of petitions. These petitions quickly exceeded the annual Congressional cap, triggering the computerized lottery that has become the norm. Each year, the U.S. government allots 65,000 standard H-1B visas and 20,000 additional “cap exemption” visas for applicants with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions.
This article reviews basic updates about the FY 2020 H-1B visa application process. When did petitions exceed caps? And how many petitions were filed? We also discuss the recent changes made to the H-1B program.
Recent Changes to the H-1B Program
The H-1B program has made headlines recently due to the Trump administration’s latest changes. These updates were proposed in November 2018 and officially announced and implemented in late January 2019. Due to the close proximity to application season, the administration has deferred some updates until later years. This includes the new electronic application system, which the USCIS will test and fully vet before implementing.
While petitioners and applicants did not need to worry about any changes to the application, the USCIS did change how the lottery chooses candidates. Previously, the computer lottery (when triggered) would select cap exemption applicants first and standard H-1B candidates second. Now, the standard lottery includes cap exemption petitions, which occurs first. After allotting the non-cap visas, the USCIS holds the cap exemption lottery (if necessary). The Trump administration intended this update to benefit cap exemption candidates, whose skills and education are attractive to the U.S.
Annual H-1B Exceeded by April 5, 2019
As always, the USCIS receives H-1B petitions for the upcoming fiscal year (FY) every April. On April 1, 2019, the USCIS began to accept FY 2020 H-1B petitions from companies and organizations across America. Sponsors must file petitions via hard copy – in future years, the system will be electronic. Petitions are processed on a first-come, first-served basis unless the mandated annual cap is exceeded within five business days of April 1. If this occurs, a randomized lottery selects all eligible petitions until reaching the max of 65,000 standard visas and 20,000 cap exemption visas.
On April 5, 2019, the USCIS announced that it had in fact received enough applications to trigger the computerized lottery system. Five days later (April 10), the lottery was completed and the USCIS provided an update. The agency completed the non-cap lottery and enough visas remained to satisfy the cap exemption visa limit. Any candidate not chosen by the lottery will receive a refund of filing fees and a notification via mail. Unfortunately, due to system restraints, this may take some time.
The massive amount of H-1B petitions isn’t surprising – applications have surpassed cap limits and triggered the lottery every year since 2013. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the U.S. government is considering increasing H-1B caps, despite their obvious demand.
Total Petitions Increased by Nearly 6%
The USCIS noted an increase in petitions this application year (FY 2020). Last year, sponsors submitted a total of 190,098 petitions. By April 5, 2019, 201,011 H-1B petitions were filed for the USCIS’s consideration, a roughly 6% increase from FY 2019.
Contact a Houston Immigration Attorney
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