Question: I have a Masters Degree in Business Administration and want to obtain an H-1B. Are they all used up yet?
Answer: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on May 24, 2005, that it has received approximately 6,400 H-1B petitions that will count against the Congressionally-mandated 20,000 cap exemption for fiscal year 2005 established by the H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004. This would be for people with advanced degrees (not the normal type of H-1B.) The USCIS published an interim final rule on May 5, 2004, implementing the new H-1B cap exemption for foreign nationals holding U.S.-earned advanced degrees, pursuant to the H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004. The Act exempts 20,000 H-1B visa numbers from the overall H-1B cap for foreign nationals holding masters or higher degrees from U.S. universities. Petitions seeking Fiscal Year 2005 H-1B visa numbers under the exemption received on or after May 12, 2005, will be accepted for filing.
The new regulations, which took effect on May 5, 2005, changed the H-1B filing procedures for FY 2005 and for future fiscal years. The regulations make available 20,000 new H-1B visas, only for foreign workers with a minimum master’s level degree from a U.S. academic institution, in addition to the Congressionally-mandated annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas.
Question: About how many more remain this year for the advanced degree holders?
Answer: About 13,600 slots remain available for fiscal year 2005 (which ends on September 30, 2005). Only foreign nationals holding masters or higher degrees from U.S. universities are eligible for one of these numbers. Because the 65,000 cap has already been reached, H-1B employers seeking the services of foreign nationals who do not hold such degrees are restricted to filing petitions for a FY 2006 number (i.e., for employment commencing on or after October 1, 2005) unless a different cap exemption is applicable (e.g., the employer is an institution of higher education). Note that a new 20,000 cap exemption will apply for FY 2006. The USCIS will exempt the first 20,000 petitions for H-1B workers who have a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher learning. After those 20,000 slots are filled, the USCIS will apply petitions for H-1B workers with a master’s degree or higher against the annual cap of 65,000. As a result, once the 20,000 numbers are used, an initial petition for an advanced-degree worker will be approved only if a number is available within the general 65,000 cap or the case is not subject to the cap under a different exemption (i.e., the employer is an institution of higher education).
Question: My friend has had an H-1B for almost 6 years and has had a Labor Certification pending for over 1 year. I heard you can only have an H-1B for 6 years maximum. What is he to do?
Answer: Post-Sixth Year H-1B Extensions Based on Long-Pending Permanent Residence Papers under what is known as AC-21 § 106(a)) allows for an extension if a labor certification or employment-based petition has been filed on behalf of the alien and remains pending for 365 days. Note the following issues clarified by the 2005 memo. Combined standard and post-sixth year H-1B extensions permitted. To obtain a post-sixth year H-1B extension, there is no need for the foreign national to first request an extension of time through the completion of his or her initial six years and then request an additional extension of time beyond the six-year limit. The petitioner can request an extension that combines the remaining time in the initial six-year H-1B period and post-sixth year time. Post-sixth year time can only be granted in one-year increments, and the total period of extension cannot exceed three years.
Question: When should the extension be filed?
Answer: The post-sixth year extension request can be filed prior to the passage of 365 days from the filing of a qualifying labor certification or I-140 petition, as long as the qualifying labor certification or I-140 petition has or will have been pending for 365 days prior to the foreign national’s requested extension start date. However, the extension will not be granted if the foreign national will not be in H-1B status at the time that the 365 days have elapsed, i.e., where there is a gap in status.