Your H-1B petition is now in the hands of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).  We have confirmation that your petition was delivered and you breathe a sigh of relief.  But what should you expect now that your petition is at the Service Center? When will you know whether your petition will receive a number under the FY 2015 cap?

Initially, USCIS will use the information from the H-1B Data Collection and Filing Fee Exemption Supplement to determine which petitions should be counted against the “regular” (bachelor’s or equivalent) cap and which should be counted toward the master’s or higher degree cap.  For FY 2015, there are 58,200 H-1B spots (65,000 – 6,800 spots set aside for Chile and Singapore) in the regular cap and 20,000 spots in the master’s+ cap.  When the 20,000 master’s+ cap limit is reached, the additional master’s+ cap cases will be grouped in with the regular cap cases. 

 USCIS has a page on its website to provide periodic updates regarding the number of cases received under each of the caps.

 When can you except a decision on your H-1B cap petition?

 If premium processing was requested…

 Premium processing is available for an H-1B petition.  A premium processing request requires an additional government filing fee, normally in exchange for processing (i.e., rendering of a decision or a request for additional evidence) of the H-1B petition within 15 days from the date of receipt by USCIS.  Due to the anticipated high volume of cap-subject H-1B petitions during the first week of April, USCIS has “temporarily adjusted its current premium processing practice” and is allowing itself until April 28th to begin premium processing of H-1B cap cases.  If premium processing begins on April 28th, decisions should begin to issue no later than May 12th.

USCIS took the same approach last fiscal year with a delayed start to the premium processing clock for H-1B cap cases.  This is a reasonable accommodation. The delayed premium processing start date will provide USCIS with time to accept the high volume of filings, check for correct filing fees, group and count the cases against the regular and master’s+ caps, conduct the lottery to choose petitions that will receive one of FY 2015 H-1B cap numbers, and prepare the selected petitions for processing.

 Note that USCIS has stated that it will continue to honor the 15-day processing clock from the date of H-1B petition receipt for non-cap H-1B cases, as well as for other types of cases that are eligible for premium processing.

 If premium processing was not requested….

While the “normal” processing time for an H-1B petition has recently been reported at about 2 months by each of the two Service Centers , due to the high volume of H-1B cap cases, as with last year, decisions will likely continue to be rendered well after the standard 2-month processing time.

 If premium processing was not requested, but I want to request it now….

If you didn’t request premium processing, but are reconsidering your decision, we can file paperwork to request an upgrade as soon as we have the I-797 receipt notice for your H-1B petition.  This can be done at any time and may be necessary, for example, in cases where a driver’s license extension is needed.

 In the meantime, we will have to await updates from USCIS.  At this point, mid-May seems very far away.