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The H1B Visa Quota - Annual Cap Numbers

The H1B Quota is the Allocation of H1B Visas That Are Available and That Can Be Issued Each Fiscal Year:
(the H1B quota is also commonly known as the H1B cap)

- The number of H1B visas issued each year through the quota system is subject to a cap limit that is determined by US Congress.
- The current H1B visa allocation for the 2011 H1B quota is set at a Total of 85,000 (65,000 plus an additional 20,000 for International students that graduate with an MBA or higher from a US University).

As H1B visas are filed and issued during the year, the available quota reduces. Once all the visas have been issued and the quota has reduced from 85,000 to 0, then no more H1B visa cap subject applications will be processed or issued by the US Government for that years quota.

The H1B quota is only for 'first-time' H1B visa cap-subject applications and does NOT include or affect:
H1B Extensions or Renewals for current H1B visa holders

2) H1B Transfers: for current H1B holders transferring their visa to a new H1B employer / sponsor

3) H1B Cap-Exempt Visas: which is 'first-time' H1B visa issuance for people who obtain sponsorship employment with: non profit organizations, Government Research organizations, or institutions of higher education.

H1B Transfers and cap-exempt positions are NOT counted towards the regular annual quota allocation. They are Unlimited in number (there is no quota) and they can be filed at any time of year, all year round.

Each Fiscal year, 65,000 H1B visas are available to International professionals and students from all over the world who want to live and work in the USA. 20,000 H1B visas are set aside for International students that have graduated with a master's or higher degree from a US University or College.

Those that already hold a valid H1B visa, and that want to transfer to a new H1B job / sponsor company, can do so at any time. H1B transfer applications are not counted towards or deducted from the annual H1B quota numbers (H1B transfers are completely separate to the Quota which is only for 'new' H1B visa applications)

In addition, there is an H1B Cap Exempt system which is also excluded from the annual quota.  for all H1B non-immigrants who work at (but not necessarily for) universities and non-profit research facilities. This means that contractors working at, but not directly employed by the institution may be exempt from the cap. Transfers among employers only count towards the quota when changing jobs from an employer exempt from the limits (academia or research) to one that is not exempt

Free Trade Agreements allow a carve out from the numerical limit of 1,400 for Chilean nationals and 5,400 for Singapore nationals.

H1B visa renewals / H1B extensions also do Not count towards the annual quota numbers. .

How the H1B Cap / Quota System Works:
The number of new H1B visas issued each year in the United States is subject to an annual congressionally-mandated H1B cap / quota.
Each H1B quota applies to a particular Financial year which begins on October 1 (when the US Governments Financial year starts).

H1B visa applications for the Financial Year (FY) are accepted by the USCIS and can start to be filed by H1B employers from April 1st onwards, and can continue to be filed until such time as the quota numbers have been reached, for that particular years quota.

Many H1B sponsoring companies in the USA start recruiting and hiring H1B job applicants 3 - 6 months in advance of the April 1st filing start date, to make sure they have all the sponsorship employment contracts in place, H1B documentation gathered, and the visa application forms completed and ready to submit to the USCIS on or as close to April 1st as possible.

H1B visas are processed and issued on a first come basis. Forward planning reduces risk, and safeguards US employers to make sure their applications are included, processed, counted and issued from the available quota numbers for that year (rather than missing out which would then mean having to wait a full year to be able to re-apply for the next years quota).

Those beneficiaries that are Not subject to the annual H1B quota are those who: currently hold H1B status, want to transfer their valid H1B to a new sponsoring company, or have held H1B status at some point in the past six years and have not been outside the United States for more than 365 consecutive days. 

The H1B cap has generally been set at 65,000 visas per year, with some exceptions for workers at exempt organizations like universities and colleges (note: contrary to popular belief, non-profit organizations are not automatically exempt, but may be so if affiliated with a university or college). In 2000, Congress permanently exempted H1B visas going to Universities and Government Research Laboratories from the quota.

H1B Cap and Visa Quota - History and Statistics:
During the early years of the H1B quota back in the early 1990s, the quota was rarely actually reached. By the mid-1990s, however, the quota tended to be filled each year on a first come, first served basis, resulting in new H1B visas often being denied or delayed because the annual quota was already filled. In 1998 the quota was increased first to 115,000 and then, in 2000, to 195,000 visas per year. During the years that the quota was increased to 195,000, it was never reached.

In FY 2004, the quota reverted to 90,000 when the temporary increase passed by Congress in 1999 expired. Since then, the quota is again filling up rapidly every year, making H1B's again increasingly hard to get. More recently, the basic quota was left at 65,000 but with an additional 20,000 visas possible for foreign workers with U.S. advanced degrees.

In FY 2007, beginning on October 1, 2006, the entire quota of visas for the year was exhausted within a span of less than 2 months on May 26, 2006, well before the beginning of the financial year concerned. The additional 20,000 Advanced Degree H1B visas were exhausted on July 26. For FY 2008, the entire quota was exhausted before the end of the first day on which applications were accepted, April 2. Under USCIS rules, the 123,480 petitions received on April 2 and 3 that were subject to the cap were pooled, and then 65,000 of these were selected at random for further processing. The additional 20,000 Advanced Degree H1B visas for FY 2008 quota was exhausted on April 30.

In its annual report on H1B visas released in November 2006, USCIS stated that it approved 131,000 H1B visas in FY 2004 and 117,000 in FY 2005. The inflation in numbers is because H1B visas can be exempt from the caps if the employer is a University or Research Lab.

In FY 2009 H1B Visa Quota (which was for year 2008 H1B Sponsorship and Filing), USCIS announced on April 8, 2008 that the entire quota for visas for the year has been reached, for both 20,000 Advanced and the 65,000 quota. USCIS would complete initial data entry for all filing received during April 1 to April 7, 2008 before running the lottery.

In FY 2010 H1B Visa Quota (which was for year 2009 H1B Sponsorship and Filing), the visa quota lasted until mid-December until all the available quota had been filled. The extended duration to fill the quota was primarily due to the economic recession.

For FY 2011 H1B Visa Quota (which is for year 2010 H1B Sponsorship and Filing) there have been new regulations implemented relating to Employer-Employee Relationship and a filing increase for certain companies. This primarily affects IT 'agencies' which has had an impact on the filing volume. View the H1B Quota 2010 Updates Here   

For USCIS FY 2012 H1B Visa Quota (which is for year 2011 H1B sponsorship and Filing) - you can view the H1B Visa 2011 Latest News and Updates

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