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H1B visa: Caps Met, Lottery To Decide 85,000 New Skilled Immigrants

Amid a raging debate in the U.S. on immigration, particularly of skilled workers, applications for H1B visa category exceeded the cap of 85,000 fixed for the fiscal year 2017 on Thursday, when filings ended. The process opened on April 1. Of the total cap of 85,000 visas, 20,000 are under a special category called 'advanced degree exemption.'

Indian IT companies such as TCS, Wipro, Infosys and Cognizant are among the major users of H1B visas, along with American giants such as Microsoft and Google that recruit resources from India. In 2014, 86 per cent of the new H1B visas issued were to Indians.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it would use a “computer-generated process, also known as the lottery, to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption." USCIS said due to the high number of petitions, it was unable to announce the date it will conduct the random selection process. Companies file several times the number of employees that they require, in order to increase the odds of winning the lottery.

USCIS will first randomly select petitions for the advanced degree exemption. All unselected advanced degree petitions will become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general cap. The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected applications that are not duplicate filings.

Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap will not be counted toward the 2017 cap. USCIS said it would continue to accept and process petitions filed to extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the U.S, to change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers, to allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and to allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

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