On April 6, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that in only five days, the number of petitions filed for H-1B visas for FY 2019 (beginning October 1, 2018) far exceeded the annual 85,000 cap. This is the sixth year in a row where the cap has been reached in less than a week, indicating continued strong demand by U.S. employers for talent from around the globe.
USCIS will conduct a lottery to select which petitions it will process, and will return the remainder, together with their corresponding filing fees. Petitions for H-1B visas that are not cap-subject will continue to be processed by the agency, as explained in the announcement.
USCIS also made known on March 20, 2018 that it is suspending “premium processing” through which petitions are decided more quickly than the norm, until September 10, 2018. This means that many employers are not likely to get decisions on their petitions until well after the start of the new fiscal year, potentially disrupting their operations.
Another late USCIS policy change, dated March 23, 2018 but only publicly shared four days before the April 2, 2018 H-1B opening filing date, prohibits multiple filings by related entities for the same employee. This may well lead to rejections or delays in processing of certain petitions prepared without knowledge of that guidance.
These developments underscore that the H-1B system, both in its numerical limits and in its implementation, falls far short of what U.S. employers and the U.S. economy needs.