U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) Service Center Operations Directorate has confirmed that they are not anticipating any procedural changes for the fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019) H-1B cap season. USCIS intends to follow the same procedures that were used for the 2018 H-1B cap season, which presumably would not include a pre-registration system. In addition, USCIS does not anticipate that premium processing will be suspended for non-cap H-1B petitions, although there may be a short suspension of premium processing for H-1B cap-subject petitions.
The H-1B visa program, by way of review, allows U.S. companies to employ foreign nationals in specialty occupations requiring a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in a specific academic area, and the total number of new H-1B visas available is limited for each fiscal year. Current annual limits are 65,000 visas with an additional 20,000 available to H-1B applicants who possess advanced degrees from U.S. academic institutions.
USCIS will begin accepting new H-1B petitions subject to the annual quota for FY 2019 on April 2, 2018. (Because April 1, 2018 falls on a Sunday, USCIS will accept cap-subject petitions for the year starting on the following business day, Monday, April 2, 2018.)
The annual fiscal year cap for H-1B visas is usually reached within the first week of filing, so employers will need to mail all cap-subject H-1B petitions early within the filing window for delivery to USCIS on April 2, 2018. Employers should begin identifying individuals for whom H-1B sponsorship will be necessary now, so as to allow sufficient time for H-1B petition preparation.