The H-1B Visa Quota & Caps System Explained By A San Francisco Immigration Attorney

On June 11, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that they had reached their quota of H-1B visa petitions for fiscal year 2012 – four months before the end of the year. In recent years, the quota has been reached in just a few months, causing many to call for skilled worker immigration reform.

What do you need to know about H-1B caps and quotas? And how will it affect your petition to find employment in the United States as a skilled worker? Here are the facts:

  • Currently, there are 65,000 H-1B skilled worker visas available each year for workers who are petitioning for their first H-1B visa, or immigrants in the U.S. who are changing their current visa to an H-1B visa.

  • There are a further 25,000 H-1B skilled worker visas, called Advanced Degree Exemption (ADE) visas, which are designed for foreign students graduating from masters and doctorate programs in the United States.

  • Of the above visas, 6,800 H-1B visas are set aside for Chile and Singapore under free trade agreements. Unused visas from these two countries will be issued during the first 45 days of the next fiscal year.

  • Some H-1B petitions are not included in the cap, such as those who have worked under H-1B visas within the past six years, those who will work for higher education, those who will work for nonprofit research organizations, and some physicians working in areas with doctor shortages.

  • In addition, those who hold H-1B visas but are looking to amend their petition, extend their petition, or change employers are not subject to H-1B quotas.

  • Your employer can petition for an H-1B visa up to six months before your start date.

  • If your employment is being affected by the H-1B quota, you should realize that there are a number of options and strategies for action, including the possibility of petitioning for a different kind of work visa.

H-1B visas are one of the best options for legally living and working in the United States, but the quota system makes securing a visa more complicated than you may initially believe.

Vaughan de Kirby
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San Francisco California EB-5 Investment Immigration Attorney