What is the annual cap on H-1B visas?

An H-1B work visa is a type of work visa allowing immigrants legal access to the United States for work. Congress places an annual cap on H-1B applications to limit the number of foreign immigrants who can apply for an H-1B work visa each year. The cap tends to change or fluctuate depending of economic and political trends. For example, in the year 2000, the cap was set at 115,000. Because of safety, political, and economic concerns, the annual H-1B visa cap has been significantly reduced. The H-1B work visa cap for the year ending in 2011 is set at 65,000. 

Even with the annual cap on H-1B visas, other caps or exceptions may apply to your situation. For example, the first 20,000 H-1B work visa applicants who obtained their master’s degrees here in the U.S. are exempt from the 65,000 cap. Each year Congress can also decide to reserve a portion of the 65,000 for certain visa applicants because of a special relationship with other countries. 

The H-1B cap resets at the beginning of each fiscal year. The fiscal year begins on October 1. However, you should submit your application as soon as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting applications for the upcoming fiscal year. For example, the USCIS began accepting H-1B work visa applications on April 1, 2010 for the fiscal year ending in 2011.

Historically, caps are maxed out early. The sooner you submit your application the better your chances will be for having your H-1B work visa application accepted before the cap is reached.

Make sure that you submit a complete H-1B work visa application packet, with the correct fee, and sent to the correct location. Failure to comply with any specified requirements could result in your application being rejected or returned, which could cause a significant delay in your application. You should begin the process of assembling your H-1B work visa packet well in advance of the application date so that you do not miss important details.

If you do not understand a particular requirement or procedure, consult with an attorney that specializes in immigration law. An immigration attorney can help you complete your packet and submit your application before the annual H-1B work visa cap is reached.