OPT Period Extension and H1B Visa

Every year U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accepts H1B petitions starting from 1st April. As such, petitions for the fiscal year 2017 will be accepted from 1st April 2016. The current quota for H1B VISA is 65,000 under the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption – also known as the Masters quota. Thus, the total quota stands at 85,000. In the previous year, USCIS received a total of nearly 233,000 H1B petitions under both the categories put together from 1st April to 7th April and then they stopped accepting new applications. For the first time, USCIS received more than the limit of 20,000 H1B petitions under the Masters quota (the exact number of applications is not declared by USCIS). Computer generated random selection process (lottery) is conducted for Masters quota petitions which selects 20,000 applicants for the Master’s degree cap completion. The H1B petitions filed under Masters quota cap, but not selected in the first round of lottery are then added to the general quota of petitions. The lottery is then conducted for this pool to select 65,000 petitions towards the general quota cap completion. USCIS rejects and returns the remaining H1B petitions.

Advantages of OPT Extension:

Since H1B VISA petitions are accepted only once a year i.e. 1st April, if the petition is rejected, the applicant has to wait for a further period of one year, i.e., till next April to be able to apply again. In case, a student has an OPT period of only one year, his OPT period lapses before the next April. Hence, he doesn’t get a second chance to apply for H1B visa and has no option but to return to his home country. But students under STEM category will now get an OPT period of 36 Months (Regular 12 months + 24 months extension). In other words, such students will get two more chances for applying for H1B visa if their first petition is rejected. For example, if a student applies for H1B visa on 1st April 2016 but does not get selected in the lottery of 2016, he would still be able to apply for H1B visa again on 1st April 2017 and once again on 1st April 2018.

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