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by Stephan Maldonado | April 02, 2019

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4 Essential Resources for International Students During the H-1B Cap Season

The H-1B cap season for the fiscal year (FY) 2020 began on April 1, 2019. This means that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is currently accepting petitions for H-1B visas subject to the cap on the number of these visas that will be granted for the FY 2020. Each fiscal year, USCIS places a limit on the number of new H-1B visas that will be issued for that year, giving citizens of other countries temporary authorization to work in the United States. That limit is known as the H-1B cap, and it is set at 65,000 H-1B visas for applicants with undergraduate degrees, and 20,000 for applicants with advanced degrees.

Since there are often more petitions than there are available visas, during the H-1B cap season, petitions are placed in a "visa lottery"; those applicants who are randomly selected from the lottery are then evaluated based on the merits of their petitions. During this time, eligible students currently enrolled in a U.S. college or university can apply for a change of status from an F-1 student visa to an H-1B. Once the number of H-1B visas issued reaches the cap, no new petitions are approved until the beginning of the cap season for the next fiscal year. 

We recently reported on changes to the H-1B visa lottery that would reverse the order in which petitions are selected. Under the new rule, applicants with advanced degrees are selected first, followed by all other applicants. 

These new rules may prove beneficial for international MBA students. If you're looking to better understand how to navigate this year's H-1B cap season, here are four essential resources to keep you up-to-date throughout the process:

  • The Graduate Management Admissions Council (the global association of leading business schools that administers the GMAT) published a helpful article, "H-1B Cap Season and What It Means for International Students Applying for a Change of Status from F-1 to H-1B". The article provides a detailed, yet succinct overview of the changes to the H-1B season, with a specific focus on change of status requests for F-1 students.
  • NAFSA: Association of International Educators has an entire resources page dedicated to the H-1B cap season, which includes tips for preparing your H-1B petition, an explanation of the premium processing option, and links to important regulations and document pages.
  • USCIS has a thorough section on their website dedicated to guiding H-1B petitioners through the process. In addition to an informative press release announcing the start of cap season, USCIS provides a thorough breakdown of H-1B guidelines, documentation requirements, associated fees, and more.
  • The International Advantage specializes in helping international students throughout the job search. In addition to a plethora of other resources on the firm's website, The International Advantage an H-1B Coaching program. This hour-long online course is designed to help international students create a job search plan and navigate the nuances of the entire H-1B process.

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