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US reaches H-1B visa limit for 2020 applications

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that they have completed the congressionally mandated cap selection of H-1B visas for 2020. In the coming weeks, USCIS will contact those who have been selected. In total, 65,000 visas will be issued through the regular cap and an additional 20,000 visas will be issued through the advanced degree cap.

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On April 1st, 2019, USCIS began accepting petitions for H-1B visas for the fiscal year of 2020. Between April 1st and April 5th, the US government received 201,011 petitions. With this number of petitions, USCIS used a computerized, random selection process to fill the 2020 quotas.

As is congressionally mandated, 65,000 petitions were issued for regular cap subject H-1B visas. The US also filled the quota for 20,000 petitions under the advanced degree exemption, sometimes referred to as the “master’s cap”. Those selected will receive a receipt indicating their selection and those who were not selected will have their files rejected and filing fees returned.

Please note that these quotas are for the US fiscal year 2020, running from October 2019 – September 2020.

H-1B Visas - Quick Facts: What you need to know

What is an H-1B visa?

An H-1B visa is a temporary work visa authorizing a foreign national to accept employment in the United States. These visas are issued to US employers for foreign workers in specialized positions with the majority issued to those working in tech occupations.

How do you get an H-1B visa?

H-1B visa applications are submitted by US employers who have selected a foreign worker they wish to hire temporarily. A foreign worker cannot apply on their own, they must have a US employer apply on their behalf.

There are two different application methods for obtaining an H-1B visa. First, for those applying for a visa under the cap subject process, and second, for those applying under the cap exempt process.

Every year the US has a limited number of H-1B visas available. These are known as the cap subject visas. In order to apply for this stream, an applicant must submit their application during the annual intake and then must be selected through the random computerized selection. This is the selection process described at the beginning of the article.

Certain US employers in specific situations are cap exempt, meaning that they can submit an application at any time. These employers include higher education institutions, certain not-for-profit organizations, and other public and private entities who meet specialized criteria.

Who is subject to the H-1B cap?

Unless a US employer meets the cap-exempt criteria, their initial H-1B visa applications are subject to the cap.

However, if a foreign worker already has an H-1B visa and wants to change their status, they are generally exempt from the cap. If a person has a valid H-1B visa, they may apply to extend their stay, to change the terms of their employment, and/or to change employers without being subject to annual H-1B caps.

What is Premium Processing?

H-1B visa applicants may apply to have their application expedited by paying for premium processing. By paying an extra fee of USD $1,410 applications are processed in 15 days or less.

Notably, premium processing is not always available. The Trump Administration suspended premium processing in 2018, only reinstating the option in recent months.

What is a Request For Evidence (RFE)?

While processing an application, US immigration officers are legally entitled to request additional evidence from an applicant. This is called a Request For Evidence or RFE. If the evidence provided does not verify the officer’s concern, they have the ability to reject an applicant.

In recent years, USCIS officers have been issuing an increasing number of RFEs. In the first quarter of 2019, 60% of applications received an RFE compared to only 38% in 2018.

US Immigration vs Canadian Immigration

Canada’s main immigration system for accepting economic immigrants is called Express Entry. In 2019, nearly 200,000 new immigrants will be accepted to Canada through economic pathways. Notably, unlike in the US system, skilled workers do not need an offer of employment in order to apply for immigration.

There are two major differences in immigration processes for skilled workers in the US compared to Canada.

Temporary status vs Permanent status

The H-1B visa in the US gives skilled workers temporary authorization to work for a single employer. If the visa expires or if the worker wants to switch employers, they must submit a new application to USCIS.

When a candidate applies for Canadian immigration through Express Entry, they receive Canadian permanent resident status. This status allows a person to remain in Canada permanently. As well, permanent residents cannot be legally tied to a single employer or a single location; all permanent residents have the legal right to live and work wherever they’d like.

Randomized selection vs Competitive selection

As explained above, USCIS uses a random computerized system to select H-1B candidates for the cap subject visas. Regardless of a person’s credentials, everyone in the pool has the same opportunity for success and failure.

The Canadian Express Entry system uses a points-based system to rank candidates against one another. Candidates receive points based on their age, education, language proficiency, work experience, and other factors. The most competitive profiles are selected in a draw that occurs approximately once every two weeks.

If a candidate has competitive credentials, Express Entry can provide peace of mind, knowing that selection is likely.

If you want to find out if you are eligible for Express Entry Immigration to Canada, simply complete our online immigration assessment. A member of our team will review your eligibility and contact you to discuss your results.

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