To begin, the word “cap” means a "limited number" with respect to the annual issuance of H1B visas. The annual cap for regular H1B visas is set by Congress at 65,000 per year. There is also a separate cap of H1B visas for those with Master's degrees (and higher) of 20,000 per year. See the press release here, for example, showing that, for 2022, the annual cap was reached.
Note that the H1B visa program is designed to encourage those with the most advanced education and skill to apply. For this reason, if there are more than 20,000 Master's/advanced degree H1B applications, then those extra applications are placed in the "regular" category. As discussed below, applications are selected via a random-selection "lottery." The Master's/advanced degree lottery is conducted first, and then the extra applications are added to the regular H1B category, which is subject to another lottery.
Further, note that there are also country-specific caps. These are Chile and Singapore. The annual caps for Chile are 5,400 and 1,400 for Singapore. These two categories generally are called H1B1 visas. Note that the annual total -- 65,000 -- is increased each year by last year's unused H1B1 visas. So, if there are 5,000 unused Chilean H1B1 visas from the previous year, then the annual cap for this year will increase by 5,000.
What Does it Mean to be "Subject to the H1B Cap"?
The cap applies both to employers and to applicants. That is, an H1B visa has two parties: the employer seeking an employee for a specialized job and the applicant who is seeking the job. Generally speaking, an employer "sponsors" an H1B applicant by making a job offer.
The concept of being "subject to the H1B cap" will "follow" an H1B visa holder for the full term of the visa. For example, an H1B visa is generally "good" for 3 FULL years with a possible extension for another three years. Let's suppose that an H1B visa holder does not fully use their three years. So, maybe, the visa holder spent three months overseas. For an H1B visa that is "subject to the cap," the visa holder can apply to "recapture" that three months allowing the visa holder to remain in the U.S. for an additional three months of work.
What is the Lottery?
Generally, the number of H1B applications exceeds the available annual cap. Thus, the U.S. immigration services use a lottery to pick which applications will be approved. Note that, if the annual cap is 65,000, the immigration services will actually approve more H1B applications than 65,000. This is called the "buffer" which allows for a certain number of H1B applications that are rejected for other reasons, withdrawn by the employer, or go unused by an employee for various personal reasons.
Contact Yekrangi & Associates Today
If you have any questions about HIB applications and the lottery, contact the Orange County Immigration Attorneys at Yekrangi & Associates today. You are not alone; we will fight for you. Yekrangi & Associates works to meet a higher standard. Our first goal is your satisfaction. Contact us at (949) 478-4963 to schedule a consultation or complete our convenient “Get Your Consultation” form here. We are located in Irvine, California.