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Applying for U.S. Work Visas for 2017 and beyond

The 65,000 H-1B visas and 66,000 H-2B visas could face drastic changes, or at least stringent requirements if the incoming Trump administration makes good on its campaign promises to prioritize U.S. citizens and workers.

Crispin ArandaOriginally posted on April 10, 2016; updated April 10, 2016

Applying for U.S. Work Visas for 2017 and beyond

On April 07, 2016 the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced closure of the H-1B visas for 2017 only 6 days after opening the work visa lottery.. 

Applicants whose employers were not able to file before the April 1, 2016 deadline would have to wait for April 1, 2017 to be considered for the next filing period (fiscal year).

The U.S. fiscal year starts October 1 and ends September 30. The H-1B applications received on April 1 to April 7, 2016 count towards the 2017 allocation.

H-1B petitions are accepted April 1 of each year but the effective employment date starts October 1 to allow applicants and employers to ensure smooth transition or entry into the United States of visa beneficiaries.

The 2018 H-1B visa allocation will start accepting applications on April 1, 2017.  Employment dates would have to be October 1, 2017.  Before filing, the U.S. employerd/sponsor must first obtain (and comply) with the prevailing wage determination from the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA).  Check how much your occupation (the job being offered must be paid by visiting the US DOL ETA website - https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pwscreens.cfm

"The prevailing wage rate is defined as the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment. Effective January 4, 2010, employers can obtain this wage rate by submitting a request to the National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC), or by accessing other legitimate sources of information such as the Online Wage Library, available for use in some programs.

The requirement to pay prevailing wages as a minimum is true of most employment based visa programs involving the Department of Labor. In addition, the H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 programs require the employer to pay the prevailing wage or the actual wage paid by the employer to workers with similar skills and qualifications, whichever is higher.

The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has provided wage data collected under the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program for use in the Foreign Labor Certification process since 1998. The wage data is available on the Foreign Labor Certification Data Center Online Wage Library (OWL), found at the following website: http://www.flcdatacenter.com/."

Applicants who are in the U.S. usually applies for extension of stay and change of nonimmigrant status (such as from B-2 to H-1B).   Those applying from overseas would have to appear for interview at consular offices, be issued their work visas and apply for admission at a port of entry.

Cap Reached

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has reached the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2017. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption.

USCIS will 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 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 cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings.

Before running the lottery, USCIS will complete initial intake for all filings received during the filing period, which ended April 7. Due to the high number of petitions, USCIS is not yet able to announce the date it will conduct the random selection process.

Cap Exempt

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the congressionally mandated FY 2017 H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming.

H-1B applicants are encouraged to subscribe to the H-1B Cap Season email updates located on the H-1B Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Cap Season Web page.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Facebook (/uscis), Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis) and the USCIS blog The Beacon.


Authors & Contributors

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

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