The H-1B visa program has proven so popular that the number of applications for the 2017 fiscal year exceeded the limit within the first week of filing for the fourth consecutive year. Employers in California and elsewhere around the country will now have to await the results of a lottery before they know if their petitions have been accepted. The process could take up to 10 business days, based upon the results from previous years.
Unlike the requirements for other employment-based immigration programs, eligibility for the H-1B visa program is limited to foreign nationals possessing at least a bachelor’s degree who are hired to work in specialty occupations related to the individual’s field of academic studies.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stops accepting petitions once the number exceeds the annual limit for H-1B visas for technical employees. The petitions on behalf of individuals with at least a master’s degree are placed in a computer-generated lottery from which 20,000 are selected for processing. The remaining master’s degree petitions are entered in another lottery along with petitions for individuals holding only a bachelor’s degree, and 65,000 of those are randomly selected for processing. The quotas do not apply to petitions on behalf of current H-1B visa workers who desire to change employers.
Eligibility standards for workers under the visa program are complex. For example, the petitions must show that academic degrees are related to the specialty occupations for which the workers are sought to be hired. An immigration attorney might be of assistance in guiding petitioners through the process.