US: Reminder - FY 2017 H-1B cap filing season opens soon

On Friday, April 1, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin to accept H-1B cap petitions for the FY 2017 quota of 85,000. The demand for new H-1Bs could exceed last year’s record level, meaning that the cap is likely to be exceeded in the critical first five business days of the filing season. 

The filing window for FY 2017 cap cases is the week of Friday, April 1 through Thursday, April 7. Cases received by USCIS during this period are treated equally for cap counting purposes. 

Gather Documents and File LCAs As Soon As Possible

Make sure to gather necessary petition documents and file DOL labour condition applications (LCAs) – a mandatory document for every H-1B petition – as soon as possible. It takes up to seven business days, and sometimes longer, for DOL to review and certify an LCA. Submitting LCAs now will maximize the chances that your organization receives certification in time to file petitions during the first five business days of April. 

When to File

To guard against the risk of untimely delivery, we recommend sending cap cases for arrival at USCIS on Friday, April 1, the first possible filing day. Cap-subject cases must be received by USCIS no later than Thursday, April 7 to make the filing window. Employers should not submit H-1B petitions for delivery on or before March 31, 2016. FY 2017 cap cases that arrive at USCIS on or before March 31 will be rejected. 

If, as expected, USCIS receives more than enough cap petitions to use up the entire quota between April 1 and April 7, it will run a lottery to choose the cases that will be processed to completion. Cases not selected in the lottery will be rejected and returned. In the very unlikely event that the cap is not reached during the initial five days, USCIS will continue to accept filings day by day until the quota is filled. 

What This Means for Employers

If your organization has not yet initiated your FY 2017 cap cases or has identified additional H-1B candidates, contact your immigration professional as soon as possible. There is still time to prepare cases before the filing period opens. Acting now is the best way to maximize your organization’s chances of meeting its H-1B cap needs for the coming fiscal year.

Stuart Beaty

Celsium, Birmingham, UK