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H-1B limits hit in early days of application acceptance

Candidates for immigration to South Carolina and other states in the U.S. based on their prospective employment in a specialty area are subject to limited numbers of slots each year. The H-1B selection process begins with applications being accepted in April of the preceding fiscal year, and if applications exceed the slots available, a lottery process will occur to fill those slots. As the application process for the 2017 fiscal year began in April 2016, the number of applications received quickly exceeded the number of visas available, a fact announced by USCIS on April 7.

There are two H-1B categories involved in this process. A general category is available for individuals seeking visas for specialty employment in areas ranging from engineering to computer expertise, which is limited to 65,000 visas. Additionally, 20,000 visas are available to applicants with master's degrees earned in the U.S. This was the fourth consecutive year during which the applications exceeded the openings within just five business days of the application process opening.

When the lottery process takes place, the visas for master's degree applicants will be addressed first. Those who are not selected during this portion of the process will be added to the pool of applicants seeking visas without degree qualifications. At this point, the timeline for these activities has not yet been provided. Although the quota has been met, those eligible under H-1B programs that are not capped may continue to apply. Examples include those seeking certain types of research positions or coming from designated countries. Those needing to make petitions for extensions or changes with existing non-immigrant visas in the H-1B category can still apply as well.

When time limits and caps affect one's ability to enter the process of a visa lottery, it may be helpful to work with an immigration lawyer to ensure that all paperwork is handled correctly. Additionally, this may allow for an individual to explore other options for immigration.

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