USCIS announced last week that it had completed the H-1B visa petition lottery process for FY 2016. This means that of the estimated 233,000 H-1B petitions that were filed, all of the 20,000 advanced degree cap petitions and all of the 65,000 general category petitions were selected for review. USCIS is now in the process of returning the unselected ~148,000 petitions, though the time frame for doing so remains uncertain, presumably because this year had the highest number of petitions ever filed – and rejected – for the lottery. The sheer volume of the petitions must be overwhelming to the agency. Our firm has not yet received any unselected petitions back from USCIS, but we expect them to begin arriving any day.
So, what do you do if your H-1B petition was not selected in the lottery this year? You may have some other options. Check out this prior post about some potential alternatives. Remember: nothing posted on this site (or anywhere else on the internet, for that matter) is a substitute for an attorney. What options you may have will be 100% dependent on your particular circumstances. Consult with your employer and immigration attorney about your options.
Otherwise, there is at least one potential legislative solution on the table. A Senate bill styled the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2015 was introduced earlier this year in the United States Senate by Senators Hatch, Klobuchar, Rubio, Coons, Flake, and Blumenthal. Although the bill is not a comprehensive solution, it would significantly increase the number of available H-1B visas. The press release summarizes the impacts on the H-1B visa program as follows:
- Increase the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000
- Allow the cap to go up (but not above 195,000) within any fiscal year where early filings exceed cap and require the cap to go down in a following fiscal year (but not below 115,000) if usage at the end of any fiscal year is below that particular year’s cap
- Uncap the existing U.S. advanced degree exemption (currently limited to 20,000 per year)
- Authorize employment for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders
- Increase worker mobility by establishing a grace period during which foreign workers can change jobs and not be out of status and restoring visa revalidation for E, H, L, O and P nonimmigrant visa categories
The bill also introduces much needed reform in the areas of student visas and green cards. Check out a one page summary (.pdf) of the bill here and the entire text of the bill here. You can track the progress (or lack thereof) of the bill at congress.gov. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) supports the bill. Although the bill is not a comprehensive legislative solution, FWD.us – the grassroots immigration reform group created by the founders of Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, Dropbox, and other silicon valley heavy hitters – also appears to support the bill. The bill was originally introduced in the last congressional session. Hopefully it has more traction this time around.