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USCIS Announces Expected Lottery for H-1B FY 2015

H-1B is a visa program used by U.S. businesses to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and at least a bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) in the field. Such specialty occupations include, but are not limited to, scientists, engineers, accountants, or computer programmers. H-1B gives foreign workers permission to work in the United States and a status that allows him or her to remain lawfully in the United States on a temporary basis. Generally, the maximum period that a foreign worker can be in the United States with H-1B is six (6) years, which is granted in increments of no more than three (3) years at a time.

The H-1B Cap & Lottery System

Each year, there is a cap or limit on the number of H-1B filings accepted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Currently, the H-1B Regular Cap is 65,000 and the H-1B Master’s Cap Exemption (for individuals who have completed a master’s degree or higher education from an accredited U.S. institution of higher learning) is 20,000.

The filing period for H-1B petitions subject to fiscal year (FY 2015) numerical cap begins on April 1, 2014 for a minimum of five business days. If there are still cap numbers available at the end of the first five days (i.e. USCIS receives fewer than 65,000 H-1B Regular Cap petitions and 20,000 H-1B U.S. Master’s Cap petitions), the cap will remain open until it is filled. Otherwise, the cap will close and a lottery will be conducted from the cases to randomly select those to adjudicate. The cases that are not selected will be returned to the petitioner without being processed and along with unused filing fees.

According to the USCIS, the lottery system is highly probable for FY 2015, as filings have been increasing each year since 2008.

Delayed Premium Processing

Due to the expected high volume of cap cases to request premium processing this year, USCIS will delay premium processing of cap-subject H-1B petitions to no later than April 28. The premium processing service guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing time. While the Form I-797 receipt notice indicates the date USCIS received the premium processing fee, the 15-day processing period will begin no later than April 28, 2014 in order to allow the USCIS to take-in the anticipated high number of filings, conduct the lottery to determine which cases meet the cap, and prepare the volume of cases for premium and regular processing.

Filing Your H-1B

H-1B cap filing is a time of high pressure, high anxiety, and high uncertainty. The futures of many foreign workers who wish to contribute to the U.S. workforce are subject to the randomness of the H-1B lottery. Thus, filing an H-1B in a timely manner is crucial to having any chance at obtaining H-1B status. The USCIS consider an H-1B case to be filed when it arrives at the appropriate USCIS filing location. The case must also be properly filed for consideration, meaning it must contain all required forms, with all necessary signatures, and the required filing fees. Cases are considered accepted on the date that USCIS receives a properly filed petition with the correct fee and does not consider the date that the petition is postmarked.

If you would like more information regarding H-1Bs and how LPY Law Group can facilitate the filing process, please click here.


Q: I cannot send in my petition by April 1, am I out of luck?

A. No. The H-1B cap season begins on April 1, 2014. USCIS will accept cases for a minimum of five business days, which is April 7, 2014. Thus, clients can submit H-1B petitions after April 1, but the petition should be received by USCIS no later than April 7.

 If USCIS receives more than 65,000 H-1B Regular Cap and 20,000 U.S. Master’s Cap petitions, then USCIS will stop accepting filings. All H-1B cap petitions received from April 1 to April 7 will be entered into a random computerized lottery to select the cases for processing.

 If by April 7, USCIS has received less than the cap limit, then USCIS will continue to accept H-1B cap cases until the cap is reached. It will then conduct a lottery for all cases received on the day the cap is reached.

Q: Will premium processing give me a better chance of selection in the lottery?

A: No. USCIS does not consider premium processing during the lottery. The probability of selection is the same for both regular and premium processing cases.


Q: If there is a lottery for cases filed during the first 5 business days, when will I know if my H-1B petition was selected or rejected?

A: USCIS usually begins issuing Receipt Notices for all selected petitions within the week after the lottery is conducted. Given the high volume of cases, it may take 3-4 weeks for all Receipt Notices to be delivered. From our experience, if there is a lottery after 5 business days, clients will receive Receipt Notices around late April.

 After all receipt notices are processed, USCIS will return the packages that were not selected in the lottery. Petitioners can expect to receive the rejection packages around May.

 Our firm will e-mail clients a scanned copy of the Receipt Notice or Rejection Notice as soon as we receive it.

Q. My case was selected in the lottery, and I requested premium processing, when will I receive a decision?

A: Per the USCIS announcement, premium processing will begin by April 28. Once premium processing starts, USCIS will approve, deny, or issue Request for Evidence within 15 calendar days.

USCIS may issue an update after the lottery is completed. Our firm will let clients know as soon as we receive more information.

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