In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick tells you everything you need to know about the H-1B visa cap season for fiscal year 2024. We have been receiving questions from our followers regarding the application process and upcoming deadlines that applicants should be aware of.
In this post, we cover what the H-1B visa program is, why there is an annual cap on the number of H-1B visas available each year, and everything you need to know about the H-1B visa application process in 2023.
What is the H-1B Visa Program?
The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers with specialized skills to work in the United States for a specific period of time. Generally, the job being offered by the U.S. employer must (1) require a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent (2) the degree should be common to the industry (3) and the duties required should be so specialized or complex that the knowledge required to perform them is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or its equivalent.
Professionals with job offers in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) are the most common applicants for H-1B visas, although other fields may also qualify for the H-1B visa, such as finance, architecture, accounting, health, education, social sciences, physical sciences, medicine, among others.
Professionals who do not possess a bachelor’s degree or higher, but have at least 12 years of relevant experience, may still qualify for the H-1B visa without having a bachelor’s degree.
Once approved, an H-1B visa is valid for an initial period of 3 years and can be extended for an additional 3 years for a maximum period of 6 years in H-1B visa status. Thereafter, employers may sponsor workers for a green card.
Why is there a numerical cap on H-1B visas?
One of the drawbacks of the H-1B visa is that there is an annual numerical limit (cap) to the number of visas that can be issued each year. The annual cap for the H-1B visa program which has been set by Congress is 65,000 visas each fiscal year. An additional 20,000 petitions are set aside for beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.
H-1B workers who are petitioned for or employed at an institution of higher education or its affiliated or related nonprofit entities, a nonprofit research organization, or a government research organization, are not subject to the H-1B numerical cap.
In order to select enough petitions to meet the H-1B numerical cap of 85,000 visas per fiscal year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducts a visa lottery, selecting from properly submitted electronic registrations to fill the cap.
Historically, competition for the H-1B visa is very strong. As an example, in FY 2022 U.S. employers submitted roughly 308,613 H-1B registrations, and by 2023 this figure increased to 483,927 registrations.