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As of April 1, 2016, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY2017). Upon approval petitions for FY2017 will allow foreign nationals to work for petitioning employers beginning October 1, 2016. USCIS will continue to accept new H-1B petitions after April 1, 2016, until the H-1B cap has been reached. However, it is widely expected that USCIS will receive petitions for H-1B visas well in excess of availability during the first five business days of April, at which point USCIS will randomly select the H-1B visas to be processed, sufficient to meet the cap. This is now commonly referred to as the “H1-b lottery.”

As these visa applications require a lead time for DOL compliance, now is the time to determine if you or your company will be pursuing an H1b for employment beginning in October 2016.Congress has placed a numerical limit, or cap, on H-1B visas. For FY2017, once again the limit is 65,000, with an additional 20,000 visas available for foreign nationals who have earned a US Master’s degree or higher. Significantly, not all H-1B petitions are subject to “the cap.”  For example, H-1B extension applications and petitions on behalf of foreign nationals who have been counted against the H-1B cap within the last 6 years are considered exempt, as are petitions by institutions of higher education and non-profit research institutions.