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Additional 20,000 H1B Visas - UPDATE

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has now instructed employers NOT to file H1B cases which could avail the new cap exemption (20,000) under the H1B Visa Reform Act of 04. This Act is part of the 05 Omnibus Appropriations Act and provided for an additional 20,000 H1B cap exemptions for Foreign Students who graduated from a US University with masters or higher degrees.

USCIS has issued an announcement indicating that it intends to administer the exemption for 20,000 H1B's in a manner that will make eligible "all qualified H1B nonimmigrant aliens...." Eligibility "will now not be limited to those individuals holding a master's degree or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher learning."

As per USCIS instructions, these cap exempt H1B applications are not to be filed until the issuance of instructions in the US Federal Register. It has also clarified that the effective date of the law is March 9, 05, and not March 8 as was indicated earlier.

The USCIS has indicated that guidelines for filing these cases are under preparation. The agency will not be accepting any applications against these 20,000 H1B visas till the guidance is issued.

Employers have been told that any application filed before the guidance is issued will be rejected. A notice will be published in the Federal Register "as soon as possible" that will indicate the date and place for filing. The filing date, the notice indicates, "may occur shortly after publication of the regulation."

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