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New Factors May Change Odds In 2017 H-1B Cap Season

The past few years have presented a number of challenges to the H-1B visa program, the most frequently used visa for professional employment in the U.S. The economic downturn that started in 2008 led to jobsite closings, high unemployment levels, and resulted in a decline in the demand for H-1B workers. As the U.S. economy started showing signs of recovery in recent years, so did the number of H-1B petitions. In fact, the number of H-1B petitions filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has skyrocketed in the last three years with the totals received for fiscal years 2014, 2015 and 2016 amounting to 125,000, 175,000 and 233,000, respectively.

These numbers far exceed the 85,000 total visas made available each fiscal year, with 65,000 allotted to foreign nationals holding a bachelor’s degree or higher and 20,000 allotted to foreign nationals holding a master's degree or higher from an accredited U.S. institution. When the amount of petitions filed exceeds the annual cap, USCIS conducts a random lottery during the first week of April to determine which petitions will be reviewed and adjudicated. In looking at past statistics, there was a one-in-three chance that a petition would be chosen in the H-1B lottery. However, due to recent changes in regulations and fees, these odds could change this year.

There are several factors that may cause the number of H-1B petitions received by USCIS to decrease this H-1B cap season, presenting a unique opportunity for employers to file H-1B petitions on behalf of foreign national employees with better odds for selection for the H-1B lottery.

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