H-1B Visa Backlogs and 2023 Registration

Congress created the H-1B non-immigrant visa category in 1990. The H-1B visa allows U.S. employers to petition for highly educated foreign professionals to work in specialty occupations. Generally, these visas go to professionals with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. These visas initially last for three years, but employers can request to extend them for up to six years. USCIS states that about 580,000 H-1B visa holders are currently in the U.S.

Limits on H-1B Visas Have Created Severe Backlogs

The limits that Congress places each year on the number of H-1B visas that USCIS may issue have resulted in a need for more professionals to fill these highly skilled STEM positions. H-1B visas also historically have gone to qualified computer professionals, such as software engineers and developers, in the computer and software industries. Other affected professionals include teachers in higher education, as well as biochemists and engineers.

The labor market needs in these industries far outweigh the number of H-1B visas available each year. As a result, hundreds of thousands of highly skilled professionals cannot enter the U.S. or benefit U.S. businesses simply because they are not chosen in the highly competitive H-1B lottery.

The current H-1B visa regular cap is 65,000, with an additional 20,000 visas for individuals with advanced degrees. These numbers have dropped significantly from a yearly cap of 195,000 in the early 2000s. USCIS moved to the lottery system in 2014, largely due to the influx of H-1B visa applications. Now, the number of registrations received vastly exceeds the number of H-1B visas available. For instance, in FY 2023, USCIS accepted 26% of the applications received for processing.

FY 2023 H-1B Registration

According to USCIS, it received 483,927 H-1B registrations for FY 2023 via its electronic registration system. USCIS selected 127,600 registrations needed to reach the 2023 numerical allocations. On August 23, 2022, USCIS announced that it had received enough H-1B petitions to reach the 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap and 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption for FY 2023.

Although the FY 2024 H-1B cap season is quickly approaching, USCIS has yet to announce the specific FY 2024 registration dates. The process will occur via the electronic registration system and is expected to be similar to the FY 2023 registration process.

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