Immigration Math: Why This Year’s H-1B Visa Numbers For High-Skilled Workers Just Don’t Add Up

Authored by Diane E. Metzger

Apr 16, 2015

As the demand for highly skilled workers grows, so has the demand for the H-1B visas that enable foreigners with these skills to work in the U.S. This year is no different: once again there are more applications than there are visas, triggering the H-1B “lottery.” Now the question on the minds of every H-1B employer is “how many H-1B applications did the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receive this year?”

We now have the answer for FY 2016. On Apr. 13, 2015, the USCIS announced that it received about 233,000 H-1B visa applications when there are only 85,000 visa slots available, triggering the H-1B lottery once again. But how do this year’s numbers compare to prior years? More importantly, what does this mean for employers of high-skilled workers

Unfortunately, it means that many foreign workers may be leaving the U.S. and taking their skills with them. More than half of the applications received by USCIS this year will be rejected, putting the work authorization of more than 140,000 H-1B hopeful employees into jeopardy. If those rejected from the H-1B lottery cannot obtain alternate work authorization, they must depart the country.

While we at The Lowenbaum Partnership predicted that more than 200,000 applications would be received this year, the numbers are nonetheless astonishing. Last year USCIS received about 172,000 H-1B Cap applications during the first week of filing. This year, the USCIS received 233,000 applications, an increase of 35% compared with last year. Similarly, in 2013 the number of applications received was 124,000, making this year the second year in a row that USCIS has seen more than a 35% increase in applications received from the prior fiscal year. This is a far cry from the good old days in 2010, 2011, and 2012 when no lottery was triggered and the H-1B cap was not filled until months after the filing season opened.

Given the high chances that H-1B Cap cases will be rejected this year, employers should consult with their immigration counsel to identify other potential immigration strategies which may available if their H-1B applications are rejected from this year’s H-1B lottery.

If you have any questions about the H-1B visa or any other business immigration matter, please feel free to contact Diane Metzger.

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