On April 7, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has reached the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2017. USCIS also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption. USCIS will now use a computer-generated process, also known as the lottery (technically referred to as a “Random Selection Process”), to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption.
USCIS will first randomly select petitions for the advanced degree exemption. All unselected advanced degree petitions will become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general cap. The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings.
Before running the lottery, USCIS will complete initial intake for all filings received during the filing period, which ended April 7. Due to the high number of petitions, USCIS is not yet able to announce the date it will conduct the random selection process. Listed below are the steps how the random selection process for the FY 2017 will be conducted.
Step 1: USCIS will receive H-1B petitions and label each of the petition with a unique identifier. This is the number or character that would be used for the random selection process. Once the H-1B is labeled, the USCIS will group the overall petitions into two pools. One pool will be the U.S. Master’s Degree quota and the other pool will be the equivalency of a U.S. Bachelor’s Degree.
Step 2: If there are more than 20,000 petitions received in the U.S. Master’s Degree quota, then USCIS will conduct a computer generated random selection process or lottery taking into account all of the H-1B U.S. Master’s Degree petitions.
Step 3: All of the H-1B petitions filed under U.S. Master’s Degree quota that were NOT selected in the lottery or random selection will be placed into the pool of petitions received as U.S. Bachelor’s equivalency quota H-1B visa petitions.
Step 4: If the total number of petitions in the combined pool (consisting of the U.S. Master’s Degree spillover and the U.S. Bachelor’s Equivalency pool) are over 65,000 petitions (number to be adjusted for Singapore and Chile H-1B1 Free Trade Agreement Visas), which is the cap limit, then a computer generated random selection process or lottery will be conducted on the pool to identify petitions that qualify for consideration under the U.S. Bachelor’s equivalency quota cap limit.
Step 5: USCIS will send the list of all selected petitions to the service centers. The USCIS service center(s) will proceed with H-1B nonimmigrant visa processing.
Step 6: All the H-1B nonimmigrant visa petitions that were not selected in the random selection process or lottery will be returned to the employers or the legal representatives along with the fees.
Step 7: USCIS will inform all selected petition holders of their case number for tracking purposes during processing. If the case is being premium processed, a receipt notice should issue within a week or two. If the case is not being premium processed, it could take many weeks and sometimes months for the employer to get a receipt notice.