As of May 21, 2010, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced that 19,600 H-1B petitions filed under the regular cap and 8,200 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. Master’s exemption cap have been received. As of the same time last year, 45,500 petitions had been filed under the regular cap and the 20,000 master’s degree cap had been reached.
Such reduced H-1B usage is certainly an indication that the economy continues to struggle. Indeed, in the past few years (except last year) the H-1B cap was used up in the first few days of filing. Last year, however, with national unemployment peaking at 10.1%, the filing period for new H-1B visas remained open for nearly nine (9) months. Although no one can predict with any certainty whether that will happen again, given the current H-1B usage and the current state of the U.S. economy, we anticipate the H-1B filing window to remain open for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, this year is another opportunity for employers who, in the past, may have opted not to file H-1B petitions for otherwise eligible workers because of the potential for wasted efforts and resources should the petitions not be selected in the random lottery utilized in prior years.
The annual cap or quota for new H-1B visas is set by Congress at 65,000 new visas per year, not including the 20,000 H-1B visas available under the U.S. advanced degree cap exemption. Please note that the cap applies only to petitions for new employment; beneficiaries of H-1B extensions and transfers (from one U.S. employer to another) are not subject to the annual quota. Additionally, employees of qualified institutions of higher education and certain non-profit or government-sponsored research organizations are typically exempt from the cap.
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Post Authored By: Anthony F. Siliato, Esq. and Scott R. Malyk, Esq. of Meyner and Landis LLP