This week the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had reached the cap for H-1B petitions in FY 2013. Any petitions received by USCIS on or after June 12 will be rejected.
"June 11, 2012, was the final receipt date for new H-1B specialty occupation petitions requesting an employment start date in FY 2013," the USCIS said in a release.
With the cap season opening on April 2, that means the 85,000 (65,000 regular, 20,000 advanced degree) cap number was reached in approximately ten weeks. This is a significant change from FY 2012, which the cap wasn't filled until late November.
A number of factors explain the increase in H-1B interest this fiscal, first and foremost being a slight improvement in the U.S. economy and the resulting boost in hiring. As we've mentioned before in this space, as the country emerges from its slow-down, companies have been deciding to invest in infrastructure and are making H-1B-heavy areas like information technology a priority.
As it appears that the economy is on a general up-tick, it's likely the demand for H-1B petitions in FY 2014 will be even greater when that window opens on April 1, 2013. It would not be surprising to see the cap number reached more quickly next year.
An interesting by-product of the cap being reached so much earlier this year -- it took at least eight months to reach the number in each of the previous three fiscal years -- will be that it could spark calls for an increase in the number of visas granted by the U.S. government each year. Thought it is doubtful any action will be taken by Congress (particularly with an election just around the corner) there are some proposals out there and getting to the 85,000 number in two and a half months could bring the issue to the forefront of immigration debate.
Though the H-1B cap has been reached, there are some alternatives available for companies seeking work authorization alternatives between now and the start of FY 2014 in October of next year. We recommend interested parties seek experienced legal counsel to consider their options.
H-1B petitions for FY 2014 cannot be filed until April 1, 2013.