Because of the fewer number of H-1B visas available for the current fiscal year, down to a total of 65,000, the H-1B cap is rapidly approaching.
On January 21, 2004, US Citizenship and Immigration Services ("CIS") announced that it had counted approximately 43,500 cases, either pending or approved, against the H-1B cap as of the close of the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2004. Constituting about 67% of the number of H-1B visas available and subject to the cap for this fiscal year, this number indicates that the cap will most likely be reached within the next couple of months.
The H-1B cap will affect all NEW applicants for H-1B status, either as initial entry or as a change of status. Once the cap is reached, no new H visa petitions will be approved until October 1, 2004 when the new fiscal year begins. Foreign nationals seeking to extend valid H-1B status with a current or new employer are not subject to the cap.
All H-1B cases subject to the cap should now be filed using premium processing.
Please contact us as soon as possible to review visa plans for any potential new hires you may have through October 2004.
US VISIT Program:
-- Update --
On January 5, 2004, the first phase of US-VISIT became operational at designated air and sea ports into the United States. As part of continued efforts to secure U.S. borders, the program generally requires most non-immigrant visitors to the United States to provide fingerprints, photographs, and/or other biometric information as a condition of entry during the primary inspection process. Notable exceptions to the program include applicants under the age of 14 or over 79, certain applicants subject to Special Registration Requirements (NSEERS), or visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program who must have a machine readable passport. It is anticipated that US-VISIT processing requirements will be implemented at additional ports of entry through 2004. This program also includes certain exit procedures which have only been implemented at a couple of pilot sites at this time. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that US-VISIT should not create any significant increase in processing times to enter the U.S.