Beginning on April 1st and for five business days thereafter, until April 7th, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will accept H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2016 cap.

The congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas for FY 2016 is 65,000. The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap.

USCIS expects to receive more petitions than the H-1B cap during the first five business days of this year’s program. Conservative estimates are that the agency may receive 200,000 petitions. The agency will monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public when the H-1B cap has been met, anticipated to be within the five business day window. Should USCIS receive an excess of petitions in that period, the agency conduct a lottery to randomly select petitions required to meet the cap. USCIS will reject all unselected petitions that are subject to the cap, as well as any petitions received after the cap has closed. USCIS used the lottery for the FY 2015 program last April.

Cases that are not selected for the Master’s cap of 20,000 will be placed into the general 65,000 quota for a chance at another lottery. USCIS has announced that cases requesting premium processing will not begin adjudication until May 11, 2015. Although no formal announcement has been made, experience indicates that receipt notices (for cases selected in the lottery) and lottery rejection notices will be mailed beginning in late-April or early-May, possibly continuing into June for non-premium processed cases.