Starting April 1, 2011, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) will start accepting applications for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. H-1B visas are used by U.S. businesses to temporarily employ foreign workers in a specialty occupation that requires theoretical or technical expertise. H-1B petitions are considered accepted on the date USCIS receives a properly filed petition and correct fee. USCIS will not use the petition’s postmark date as the date the application is accepted.
The H-1B cap for FY 2012 is set at 65,000. This means that for FY 2012, the USCIS will grant H-1B visas to a maximum of 65,000 approved applicants. After the cap has been reached, the USCIS will notify the public. The date the cap is reached is known as the “final receipt date.” If more petitions that can be accepted are received on the “final receipt date,” the USCIS may randomly choose which petitions it will consider for the final inclusion in the cap. The petitions not chosen, and any other H-1B petitions received after the cap has been reached, will be rejected.
The USCIS will exempt the first 20,000 H-1B petitions, for individuals with U.S. master’s degrees or higher, from this numerical cap. In addition to these exempted applications, USCIS exempts petitions for beneficiaries working for institutions of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations, and governmental research organizations. Petitions for beneficiaries that will work only in Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands are also exempt from the H-1B cap until December 31, 2014. Additionally, H-1B petitions that have previously been counted against the cap are not counted against the FY 2012 cap. These petitions include applications extending the time a current H-1B worker may remain in the U.S., changing the terms of employment for current H-1B workers, changing an employer for current H-1B workers, and filed for H-1B workers who desire to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.