U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") announced on April 7, 2016 that it had reached the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year 2017 ("FY2017"). A few days later, USCIS disclosed the total number of H-1B petitions the agency received for FY2017: 236,000. As a result, USCIS employed a lottery system to select the 65,000 H-1B visas in the general category cap and the additional 20,000 H-1B visas available to applicants with a U.S. master's degree or other advanced degree obtained in the U.S.
The number of applications submitted by employers seeking to hire professionals under the H-1B program has increased since 2013 and the lottery process has become commonplace. USCIS confirmed it received 124,000 applicants in FY2014, 172,500 in FY2015, 233,000 in FY2016, and now 236,000 in FY2017.
For petitions filed via premium processing that were selected in the lottery, USCIS announced it will begin the guaranteed 15-day processing time for those petitions on May 12, 2016. On May 2, 2016, USCIS confirmed it had completed data entry for all FY2017 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in the lottery. The agency will now begin the process of returning filing fee checks and the petitions not selected in the lottery, typically mailing those packages back to employers beginning in late May or early June.