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US H-1B advance degree exemption update

As previously reported, all of the 66,000 H-1B visas for the Fiscal Year 2007 (FY 2007) have been allocated and further applications have not been accepted since 26 May, 2006. Holders of an H-1B may begin work on the first day of the new fiscal year, which starts on 01 October.

A special category of this non-immigrant worker visa is the H-1B Advance Degree Exemption, of which 20,000 may be approved each year under current U.S. immigration law. The H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004, which became effective 05 May, 2005, allows foreign-born individuals who have graduated with a Masters degree or higher from an approved U.S. university to apply for an H-1B that does not fall under the 66,000 cap.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released updates to the Advance Degree Exemption category. As of 09 June, 2006, 2,218 applications have been granted. 5,106 applications are received and pending approval. As of 13 June, 2006, an estimated 4,000 I-129 forms have not been receipted (they have not yet been processed for data entry).

USCIS indicates that only a small fraction of these are for the Advanced Degree Exemption.

This indicates that at least 10,000 petitions may yet be received prior to the start of FY 2007 on 01 October of 2006. Interested persons should note that over 10,000 H-1B visas were processed in one week during the end of May to reach the normal cap. The Advance Degree Exemption petitions reach their cap slower, but the further into the year the time-limit progresses, the more likely that the cap will be reached.