What is the H-1B Cap?
What exactly is the H-1B “quota” or “cap”? Each fiscal year (October 1 through September 30), 65,000 H-1B visas are available to qualifying foreign nationals seeking employment in H-1B status. 1,400 additional H-1B visa numbers are set aside for citizens of Chile and 5,400 are set aside for citizens of Singapore. An additional 20,000 H-1B visas are available to those who have earned Master’s degrees or higher degrees from U.S. universities. There are also many employers (such as certain research institutions or hospitals) which are exempt from the H-1B cap.
H-1B Visa Numbers Now Moving Quickly
As of January 7, 2011, the latest H-1B cap count numbers for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 reflects H-1Bs are no longer available in the Master’s Cap category, and only 6,300 remain in the regular H-1B cap category. Even though no Master’s H-1B numbers are available, H-1B applicants with US Master’s degrees can still apply under the regular cap category.
H-1B visas for FY 2011 are likely to be exhausted by the end of January or even sooner. H-1B petitions need to be filed NOW for FY 2011, or plan to file April 1, 2011 with employment to start October 1, 2011 under the FY 2012 quota.
Economic Recovery and H-1B Visa Availability
As the H-1B visa numbers dwindle, pressure is building to secure a work visa and begin employment in FY 2011 (which ends September 30, 2011). Although many employers and employees feel the stress of the dwindling supply of visa numbers, this year’s cap has lasted longer than previous years. This is mainly as a result of the economic downturn that has reduced employment opportunities.
It is unlikely the H-1B visa cap will be met on April 1, 2011, the first day the new H-1B quota becomes available. In 2007 and 2008 nearly 160,000 petitions arrived on April 1. It is expected that the FY 2012 quota will last several months beyond April 1 as we saw in 2009 and 2010. There is no doubt the rate at which the visa numbers are used is directly linked to the economy. As the economy recovers, the demand for workers increases, which increases the demand for H-1B visas.
- Hospitals, research institutions, and other educational institutions may fall under an exemption to filing under the H-1B cap
- Plan strategies now for FY 2012 since we cannot predict how quickly the cap will be reached next year
- Speak with an immigration attorney now!
- Government Accountability Office (GAO): H-1B VISA PROGRAM — Reforms Are Needed to Minimize the Risks and Costs of Current Program (PDF)