The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 6, 2018 that it has reached its 65,000 annual cap for H-1B visas for upcoming FY2019, just five days after the H-1B filing season began on April 2, 2018. USCIS received approximately 190,000 FY2019 H-1B petitions, down only 9,000 from FY2018.
USCIS also received enough H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa advanced degree “master’s cap.” The H-1B program allows U.S. employers to hire highly skilled foreign workers for jobs that require specialized knowledge. Each year there are 65,000 H-1B visas available for employees with bachelor’s degrees. Another 20,000 are allotted for workers with master’s degrees or higher.
Since the issuance of the President’s April 18, 2017 Executive Order “Buy American, Hire American” and during FY2018’s H-1B filing season, USCIS issued an unprecedented number of Requests for Evidence most challenging H-1B eligibility for entry level positions on grounds of whether the position offered was professional, or whether the employer was offering the correct wage level. FY2018 H-1B U.S. employers were blindsided by these issues because USCIS had given no prior indication before the FY2018 H-1B season began that these points were in contention. For FY2019, U.S. employers knew that USCIS has effectively raised eligibility requirements for H-1B petition approvals by requiring a heightened standard of proof, making the 190,000 H-1B petitions filed evidence of continued demand for highly skilled workers.
USCIS will return filing fees for all cap-subject petitions that have not been selected. The agency said it will continue to accept and process cap-exempt petitions.