H-1B Visa Cap Hit for Fiscal Year 2017

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By Laura D. Francis

April 7 — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as of April 7 has received enough H-1B petitions to reach the 65,000 cap on the highly skilled guestworker visas for fiscal year 2017.

Employers also submitted enough petitions for the additional 20,000 H-1B visas for workers with advanced degrees, the agency said.

This is the fourth straight year that the H-1B cap has been reached in the first week employers could apply. April 1 was the first day the USCIS accepted petitions for FY 2017, which starts Oct. 1.

Last year, employers submitted 233,000 petitions for the total 85,000 visas, prompting a lottery to select which ones the USCIS would adjudicate . The same process will take place this year, with a lottery conducted first for the 20,000 advanced degree slots.

The USCIS said it can't yet determine when the lottery will take place, considering the volume of petitions it received.

Employers can continue to file petitions for cap-exempt H-1B visas, including petitions on behalf of workers who previously were counted against the cap and who still have their cap number. The USCIS said it will continue to accept petitions to:

  • extend an H-1B worker's status;
  • change the terms of employment for a current H-1B worker;
  • change a current H-1B worker's employer; and
  • allow a current H-1B worker to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

    Cap Increase Unlikely

    Immigration attorneys, employers and advocates have for years called on Congress to raise the H-1B cap, or at least make it subject to market demand. The American Competitiveness Alliance recently held an event focusing on H-1B workers' contributions to the U.S. economy and suggesting changes in the program .

    But recent high-profile cases involving U.S. workers being replaced by H-1B workers—including information technology workers at Walt Disney World and Southern California Edison—have resulted in lawmakers seeking tighter restrictions on the increasingly popular visa program.

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), for example, have partnered on legislation that would, among other things, require “good faith steps” to recruit U.S. workers prior to hiring an H-1B worker.

    Congress isn't likely to take action in either direction, however, as it remains deadlocked on immigration at least until the end of the Obama administration.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Laura D. Francis in Washington at lfrancis@bna.com

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

    For More Information

    Information on the FY 2017 H-1B season is available at http://src.bna.com/dXQ.