It’s that time of the year: USCIS accepts applications for the H-1B FY 2020 cap. Your partners at Bridge know this is a stressful process, and everyone is eager to find out whether their petition has been selected or not. Before reaching out to our team with questions specific to your petition, please refer to the guide below.
Information About the Lottery
When is the first day that my H-1B cap petition can be filed?
USCIS will start to accept H-1B cap petitions for the fiscal year 2020 on April 1, 2019. No petitions can be filed before this date. USCIS will accept petitions through the first five business days of April (through April 5, 2019) and, assuming the quota has been exceeded during that window, USCIS will stop accepting cap petitions received after April 5.
Does the filing date affect the likelihood of my petition being selected?
No. It does not matter if your petition is received on April 1 or April 5. All petitions received by USCIS within the filing window have equal chances of being selected in the lottery.
How many H-1B visas will be available?
This year, the cap for applicants with a bachelor’s degree is at 65,000, and there are an additional 20,000 H-1B visas available for applicants with an advanced degree from a U.S. institution.
Why is the H-1B cap a lottery?
If USCIS receives more petitions than visas they have available (e.g. more than 65,000 regular and 20,000 U.S. master petitions) they will determine through a lottery system which H-1B petitions are selected.
How are petitions selected?
USCIS will randomly select petitions through a computer-generated system. While the petitions are checked for duplicates or other factors that would disqualify them from the lottery, they are not being reviewed for their content.
How do I know that USCIS actually received the petition that was filed on my behalf?
USCIS does not confirm the receipt of H-1B cap petitions. If you’re working with Bridge this cap season, as soon as we send out the petition via FedEx/UPS, we will email you and provide you with the tracking number.
Expected Timeline for Lottery & Selection Notifications
When is the selection process completed?
The computer-generated selection process is usually completed shortly after USCIS stops accepting petitions. USCIS will make an official announcement on their website that the selection process has been completed.
When will I know if my petition has been selected?
Bridge expects USCIS to send out Receipt Notices for selected petitions between mid April and early July. As soon as we receive a Receipt Notice for your petition, we will notify you via email. If we have not reached out to you yet, we have not yet heard from USCIS.
Will USCIS send an email if my petition was not selected?
No. If you’re working with Bridge, USCIS will return all petitions that have not been selected in the lottery directly to our office.
How long should I wait before reaching out to Bridge to ask about the status of my petition?
The H-1B cap process is nerve-wracking and stressful. Your partners at Bridge will reach out to you as soon as we receive an update on whether your petition has been selected in the lottery or not. If we have not contacted you with an update yet, we have not heard from USCIS. We know that you are anxious to find out if your petition has been selected, but please be patient.
My H-1B cap petition has been selected! What now?
Along with the notification that the petition that was filed on your behalf has been selected we will send you the Receipt Number. You can track the status of your petition online here.
What is a Request for Evidence?
A Request for Evidence (RFE) means that USCIS wants more information regarding your petition before they can make a decision. Our office will receive the RFE and we will respond to it before the deadline set by USCIS. Once we know the details about the RFE we will reach out to you. If you check the status of your petition online and see that an RFE has been issued and you have not heard from us yet there is no need to reach out to us, we will contact you as soon as we receive the details in the mail.
My H-1B cap petition was not selected in the lottery. What now?
If the H-1B petition we filed on your behalf has not been selected, we will schedule a time to discuss alternative visa options.
Information About Travel Restrictions
My H-1B cap petition has been filed as a Change of Status (COS). Can I travel abroad?
In general: No. If international travel between now and Oct. 1 is inevitable, please reach out to us immediately so that we can determine if travel would impact the H1-B visa or your current F-1 or OPT status.
My H-1B cap petition has been filed as a Consular Notification (CON). Can I travel abroad?
In general: Yes. However, please reach out to us prior to any international travel unless it has been discussed prior to filing the H-1B petition, so that we can make sure all of your documents are in order.
What is the cap gap?
The cap gap applies to individuals who have a pending or approved H-1B cap petition with USCIS, and whose current OPT status expires after April 1 but before Oct. 1. Essentially, the cap GAP provision will automatically cover the period between the expiration date of the OPT and the start date of the H-1B visa and allow you to keep working in the U.S.
The cap gap applies to me and my H-1B petition was selected and approved. What do I have to do?
If the H-1B petition that was filed on your behalf was approved, the cap GAP applies automatically. Even if your OPT status expired in the meantime, you will be allowed to keep working until your H-1B visa takes effect on Oct. 1. No separate petition to activate the cap GAP needs to be filed.
The cap gap applies to me and my H-1B petition was selected but NOT approved. What do I have to do?
IF your OPT status expires while you are waiting on the decision of the USCIS on whether your selected H-1B petition gets approved or not, the cap GAP applies while you wait. However, the cap GAP ends on the day that USCIS officially notifies us that the petition has been rejected. Starting that day, the regular 60 day grace period will start. If this scenario applies to you, we will reach out to you and let you know the exact timeline that applies to you.
Can the H-1B petition on my behalf be filed under Premium Processing?
USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2020 cap on April 1, 2019. Premium processing will be offered in a two-phased approach during the FY 2020 cap season. The first phase will include FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status and the second phase will include all other cap-subject petitions.
Concurrent Filing for H-1B changes of status: The first phase begins on April 1, 2019. All FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status, may request premium processing by concurrently filing. In order to prioritize data entry for cap-subject H-1B petitions, USCIS will not begin premium processing for these petitions until May 20, 2019.
Upgrades for H-1B changes of status If a petitioner does not file Form I-907 concurrently with an FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petition requesting a change of status, the petitioner must wait until premium processing begins to a request for premium processing. Until premium processing begins for these petitions, USCIS will reject any Form I-907 that is not filed concurrently with a cap-subject Form I-129.
Upgrades for all other H-1B cap filings: The next phase will not begin until at least June 2019. This phase is the remainder of all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions. Cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status may not submit their premium processing request concurrently with their H-1B petition. These petitioners will be eligible to upgrade to premium processing by filing Form I-907 once premium processing begins for these petitions. USCIS will notify the public with a confirmed date for premium processing for cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status.
Should you have any questions about how this impacts your business or employees, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.