20,000 Additional H-1B Visas Will Be Available To US Masters Degree Holders Beginning May 12, 2005

The United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) indicated yesterday (May 2, 2005) that it will publish the regulation implementing the additional 20,000 H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2005 on May 5, 2005. The regulation indicates that new H-1B petitions and conversions for these additional 20,000 visas will be accepted 5 business days after this regulation is published in the Federal Register. This means that the USCIS will be accepting cases for this 20,000 batch beginning May 12, 2005. Employers wishing to file cases that fall within this quota should file the cases on the initial date that the 20,000 visas are available as it is anticipated that the 20,000 visas will be depleted quickly. Below you will find a summary of the regulation that is to be published by the USCIS on May 5, 2005.

20,000 H-1B visas will only be available to individuals who hold a US Masters Degree or higher

The USCIS has reiterated in the aforementioned regulation that the 20,000 H-1Bs will be utilized only for individuals who possess a US masters degree or higher. This 20,000 H-1B allocation is in addition to the yearly 65,000 cap imposed on H-1B visas and will be available to individuals with U.S. masters degrees or higher every fiscal year.

All petitioners should file eligible petitions with the Vermont Service Center

The USCIS has indicated that the Vermont Service Center will be the only center accepting H-1B applications for the FY2005 20,000 H-1B visa allocation. Petitions filed at any other center will be rejected. The USCIS also stated that it is suspending efilings of H-1B petitions until further notice in order to ensure that it can properly account for the 20,000 visas. Petitions should be filed at the following special address:

USCIS Vermont Service Center
1A Lemnah Drive
St. Albans, VT 05479-7001

Petitions pending or approved for FY2006 can be converted

The USCIS has also indicated that it will accept conversion requests from petitioners wishing to convert cases that have been approved or pending for the 2006 fiscal year to a start date on or before September 30, 2005. To convert such cases, the petitioner must send the USCIS the following documentation:
1) a letter requesting the conversion;
2) a copy of the approval notice of the FY2006 petition or a copy of the receipt notice for the FY2006 petition or the first two pages of the I-129 petition if the receipt notice has not been received or a new I-129 form; and
3) a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the US Department of Labor that is valid for the requested period of employment.

The USCIS is not going to charge any fees for converting the petition. If all FY2005 numbers are used up by the time the conversion request is sent in, the original filing date will be utilized an a FY2006 start date will be assigned to the H-1B petition.

Cases processed in a first-in first-out basis

The USCIS indicated that it will process cases in a first in first out basis. The USCIS will utilize statistical data from past years to determine the final date of acceptance for the 20,000 visas. On the last day of filing, the USCIS will randomly select petitions on that date to reach the cap. In the interest of avoiding multiple filings, for this year (FY2005), the USCIS will automatically accept any petitions remaining after the FY2005 quota has been exhausted for a FY2006 (October 1, 2005) start date unless the petitioner clearly indicates on the petition that does not wish to pursue a FY2006 case. For future fiscal years such remaining petitions will be returned to the petitioner, along with a refund of the fees.