What is a “Cap”?
The word “Cap” used in this Update refers to annual numerical limitations set by Congress on certain nonimmigrant visa classifications, e.g., H-1B and H-2B. Caps control the number of workers that can be issued a visa in a given fiscal year to enter the United States pursuant to a particular nonimmigrant classification. Caps also control the number of aliens already in the United States that may be authorized to change status to a cap-subject classification. The annual numerical limitations generally do not apply to persons who have already been counted against the cap in a particular nonimmigrant classification and are seeking to extend their stay in that classification.
The H-1B visa program is used by some U.S.employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in a specialized field and a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. Typical H-1B occupations include architects, engineers, computer programmers, accountants, doctors and college professors. The H-1B visa program also includes certain fashion models of distinguished merit and ability and up to 100 persons who will be performing services of an exceptional nature in connection with Department of Defense (DOD) research and development projects or coproduction projects. The current annual cap on the H-1B category is 65,000. Not all H-1B nonimmigrants are subject to this annual cap. Please note that up to 6,800 visas may be set aside from the cap of 65,000 during each fiscal year for the H-1B1 program under the terms of the legislation implementing the U.S.-Chile and U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreements. Unused numbers in this pool are made available for H-1B use for the next fiscal year.
H-1B Employer Exemptions
H-1B nonimmigrants who are employed, or who have received an offer of employment, by institutions of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, as well as those employed, or who will be employed, by a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization are exempt from the cap.
H-1B Advanced Degree Exemption
The H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004 makes available 20,000 new H-1B visas for foreign workers with a Master’s or higher level degree from a U.S. academic institution. For each fiscal year, 20,000 beneficiaries of H-1B petitions on behalf of persons who hold such credentials are statutorily exempted from the cap.
Duplicate H-1B Petitions Filed Requesting Fiscal Year 2010 Employment
USCIS will deny or revoke all petitions filed by an employer for the same H-1B worker if more than one filing is discovered. If multiple petitions are discovered, whether one or more such petitions are approved, USCIS will data enter all those duplicative petitions, retain all fees, and either deny the petitions or, if a petition was approved, revoke the petition. The petitions will not be returned to the petitioner.
Fiscal Year H-1B Cap Count
As of November 13, 2009, approximately 55,600 H-1B cap-subject petitions had been filed. USCIS has approved sufficient H-1B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees to meet the exemption of 20,000 from the fiscal year 2010 cap. Any H-1B petitions filed on behalf of an alien with an advanced degree will now count toward the general H-1B cap of 65,000. USCIS will continue to accept both cap-subject petitions and advanced degree petitions until a sufficient number of H-1B petitions have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account the fact that some of these petitions may be denied, revoked, or withdrawn.
An H-1B1 is a national of Chile or Singapore coming to the United States to work temporarily in a specialty occupation. The law defines an H-1B1 specialty occupation as a position that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge. The beneficiary must have a bachelor’s degree or higher (or equivalent) in the specific specialty. The combined statutory limit is 6,800 per year. The cap for H-1B1 for FY2010 had not been reached as of November 17, 2009.
The H-2B visa category allows U.S. employers in industries with peak load, seasonal or intermittent needs to augment their existing labor force with temporary workers. The H-2B visa category also allows U.S. employers to augment their existing labor force when necessary due to a one-time occurrence which necessitates a temporary increase in workers. Typically, H-2B workers fill labor needs in occupational areas such as construction, health care, landscaping, lumber, manufacturing, food service/processing, and resort/hospitality services.
The Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2005 (SOS Act) divided the annual numerical limitations of 66,000 into two halves. As of FY 2010, an H-2B petition may not be filed more than 120 days before the date of the actual need for the H-2B worker’s labor/services identified on the labor certification. As a result, USCIS normally begins receiving H-2B petitions with employment start dates in October and April.
What is the H-2B numerical limit set by Congress?
The H-2B numerical limit set by Congress per fiscal year is 66,000, with 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the 1st half of the fiscal year (October 1 – March 31) and 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the 2nd half of the fiscal year (April 1 – September 30). Generally, an H-2B worker who extends his/her stay in H-2B status will not be counted again against the numerical limit. An alien who changes nonimmigrant status to H-2B is counted against the annual H-2B cap.
An estimated 47,000 beneficiary applications is needed to reach the cap of 33,000 each half of the fiscal year, with an allowance for withdrawals, denials and revocations.
As of November 13, 2009, USCIS had approved 20,937 H-2B beneficiaries for the 1st half of Fiscal Year 2010, and another 1,491 applications were pending. Compare that combined amount, 22,428 (beneficiaries approved + beneficiaries pending) to the “beneficiaries target” amount of 47,000.
The H-3 nonimmigrant visa category is for aliens who are coming temporarily to the U.S. to receive training (other than graduate medical education or training) that is not available in their home countries. The training may be provided by a business entity, academic, or vocational institute. The H-3 nonimmigrant visa category also includes aliens who are coming temporarily to the U.S. to participate in a special education training program for children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. There is a limit of 50 visas per fiscal year allocated to H-3 aliens participating in special education training programs. As of October 1, 2009, USCIS had not received any petitions requesting this classification in fiscal year 2010.
If you or a loved one require further information about an H-1B or H-2B visa, or any other immigration law matter, contact us to schedule your initial consultation with an experienced immigration attorney today. Our immigration lawyers represent clients throughout Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.