News - July 2006

H-1B Visas Still Available for Holders of US Master's Degree

The USCIS has announced that some H-1B visas remain for foreign nationals holding Master's degrees granted by U.S. universities.

The agency stated that as of July 6, 2006, a total of 14,929 cases had been filed against the Fiscal Year 2007 cap for individuals with these advanced U.S. degrees. (This fiscal year, which began on October 1, 2006, ends on September 30, 2007.) Congress exempted 20,000 H-1B visas from the 65,000 annual cap, and the recent USCIS report stated that over 5,000 of these 20,000 exempt visas are still available to eligible H-1B beneficiaries.

We expect that these remaining H-1B numbers will be depleted quickly. Note that petitions for H-1B classification may be filed up to six months in advance of the work-start date. USCIS regulations state that cap numbers are issued based on petition filing date, not approval date.

Employers should be aware that the cap does not affect H-1B employees who (1) change employers; (2) apply for extensions of stay; and, (3) change jobs where the employer files to amend a previously approved petition. The cap also does not apply to employees of institutions of higher education and related non-profit entities or non-profit research organizations.

Employers who miss this year's cap will have to wait to file new H-1B petitions for work commencing in Fiscal Year 2008, with work-start dates on or after October 1, 2007. Employers should plan their hiring strategy accordingly.


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