The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced today that this year's congressionally mandated H-1B cap of 65,000 applications has been reached. The USCIS will no longer be accepting any new applications for H1-B visas for the purpose of first-time employment in the United States.
New procedures have been announced by USCIS for the remainder of fiscal year 2004 (1 October 2003 - 30 September 2004), as follows:
- applications received until 17 February will still be processed by USCIS
- all H-1B applications received after 17 February will be returned
- the filing fee will also be returned with any late applications
- a new application can be submitted when more H-1B visas become available during the next fiscal year 2005
- the earliest an H-1B application can be submitted for employment beginning 1 october 2004 is 1 April 2004
H-1B renewal petitions are not included in the cap. Therefore the USCIS will continue to process applications for the following purposes:
- for those who wish to extend/ renew a current H-1B visa
- for those whose employment terms have chaged for current H-1B holders
- for those current H-1B holders who are changing employers in the US
- for those who are already working on H-1B visas and wish to work in a second H-1B position.
The cap also does not apply to foreign nationals who will be employed by a University or other institution of higher education or in another non-profit research organisation or government research organisation. Furthermore, the cap does not apply to nationals of Singapore or Chile and these H-1B petitions will continue to be processed.