The H-1B “cap” (numerical limit) is 65,000 for “regular” cases plus 20,000 for persons who have earned U.S. master’s degrees. Each year this number is “released” April 1 – 5, in a process reminiscent of the Running of the Bulls of Pamplona. People hoping to be included in the cap – and their immigration attorneys – feel somewhat like those brave souls who run with the bulls: Exhausted but triumphant if they succeed; trampled and downcast (although, unlike some bull runners, still alive) if they fail.
Each year, we take great precautions to assure that packages are not rejected – even incorrectly - upon receipt. Our process includes a review before sending the forms for signature, three reviews (by three different people) after the signed forms are returned and the packets prepared, and two more reviews (by two different people) after the packets are copied and ready to be mailed, including reviewing the address, checks, and the number of pages in each form. But if too many applications are received, a lottery will determine whose applications are ultimately adjudicated.
Businesses and the H-1B applicants themselves are the ones who really suffer in this annual ritual. Uncertainty and inability to plan is untenable for workers and employers alike. Before I became an immigration lawyer, if someone told me that whether I could keep my job or hire a certain worker – let alone remain in the country – would be based on a random lottery, I would not have believed it. Not in America at least.
Here’s hoping that Congress will be as brave as those bull runners and H-1B applicants and change this crazy immigration system for the better!