The popular H-1B visa program, which gives the opportunity to foreigners of areas which require specialized knowledge to come to the United States and fill available jobs, has reached its cap within just 5 days.

While application opened on April 2, by Monday the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service announced through a press release published on its official website that the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2019 has been reached, and a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa US advanced degree exemption had been received.

“Petitions filed for current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the FY 2019 H-1B cap,” the press release highlights.

However, the USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are exempt from the cap. And also petitions filed to:

  • Extend the period of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States,
  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers,
  • Permit current H-1B workers to change employers, and
  • Permit current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

H-1B premium processing suspension for FY 2019

Previously, the Trump administration has suspended premium processing for the Fiscal Year 2019 cap-subject petitions, which is an option that permits certain petitioners to pay an extra $1,225 fee for USCIS to take action on their petition within 15 calendar days of filing.

The decision, according to the USCIS, came as an attempt to reduce the overall H-1B processing times. It claims that the suspension of premium processing, will create space to process long-pending petitions, which have been left unprocessed so far as a result of the high number of incoming petitions and the significant increase in premium processing requests over the last few years. As well as to prioritize the adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark.

A similar temporary suspension of premium processing for all H-1B petitions had been applied in 2017 too. The USCIS had only exempted the premium processing which had already been requested prior to April 3, same year. The suspension ended on September 18th, 2017.

Brief history of H-1B visa

The non-immigrant H1B visa is a very popular, especially among foreigners from India or China, since it allows technology companies to hire a large number of foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

The H-1B visa has an annual numerical limit cap of 65 thousand visas each fiscal year. Exempt from the cap are the first 20 thousand petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US master’s degree or higher.

According to the USCIS, between 2007 and 2017, India was number one country with most applications for H-1B visa with a maximum number of 2.2 million petitions from high-skilled Indians received, followed by China with 301 thousand petitions throughout the same period.

Still, the approval rate in 2017 is considered the lowest ever, since it fell below 60%, and with the latest changes, the number of approvals might affect this number to decrease further.