H-1B Master’s Cap: Potential Mistakes You Can Avoid With Your H-1B Petitions

Published On
Mar 24, 2021
Read Time
4.5 minutes
OnBlick Inc

Foreign nationals who have obtained their master’s degree or higher in the U.S. have the advantage of signing up for the advanced degree-exemption, or the master’s quota for their H-1B petitions. The USCIS sets aside an additional 20,000 registrations for advanced degree candidates every year, and those who qualify for it must make sure they follow the guidelines while petitioning for their H-1B visa.

In this blog, we discuss the requirements for the H-1B Master’s cap and potential mistakes you can avoid during the process.

The H-1B Selection Process

Every fiscal year, U.S. employers are provided the opportunity to hire foreign workers temporarily to perform services for specialty occupations under the H-1B visa program. These specialty services may be related to a Department of Defense (DOD) cooperative research and development project or coproduction project or services of distinguished merit and ability in the field of fashion modeling.

A certain number of limitations is attached to the number of initial H-1B visas that can be allotted to foreign workers for a fiscal year. While the regular applicants fall under the 65,000 cap, workers with a U.S. Master’s degree or higher, qualify for an additional cap of 20,000.

Currently, for the H-1B cap filling process, the USCIS randomly selects petitions from a pool of registrations received by the final receipt date. However, there are chances that the new rule on the H-1B cap selection process passed out by the Trump administration may be followed through the next cap season where the wages of the applicants would play a crucial role in their selection.

Note: The selection process is carried out for advanced degree exemption and then for the regular cap to fulfill the remaining petitions.

Master’s Cap Requirements

To qualify for the advanced degree exemption, beneficiaries should qualify certain criteria. As stated above, the candidates who have attained a Master’s (or higher) degree from a U.S. college or university, can consider applying for the master’s cap for their H-1B application. However, they need to ensure their degree and school fall into the following criteria:

1. A Public or Other Nonprofit Schools

It has been intimidated that the institution where the candidate obtained their degree from, must be accredited by a nationally recognized agency or association. A school with pre-accreditation status from a recognized accrediting agency or association would also be considered for the purpose. Additionally, the candidate should be a student of a public university or other nonprofit institutions to have their degree recognized under the H-1B advanced degree exemption.

2. School Accreditation

While applying for the Master’s cap, the candidates should ensure that their institution has the accredited or pre-accreditation status as on the date their degree is has been issued or awarded to them. If the candidate obtained their degree from the university before it was accredited, it would not be considered for the Master’s cap. It has also been notified that the candidate may still qualify for the cap if their institution lost their accreditation status post the time period of their graduation.

3. Degree Requirements

While it is necessary that the candidate should possess a degree of their higher education while they’re registering for an H-1B visa, they are not required to present it while their petition is being filed by the employer. It has been clarified that the candidates should have been awarded their advanced degree or have completed the requirements for it by the time the cap-subject H-1B petition is filed.

While registering the beneficiaries, the employer must make sure they mention it if their candidate qualifies for the Master’s cap. If the candidate is selected under the cap, their H-1B petition must be filed within 90 days of the selection. The window for registrations has been predicted to run between April 1 through June 30, 2021. If the candidate is eligible to attain their advanced degree by the end of June, they may have the window to register for the master’s cap for this season. This may provide the employer the opportunity to register their candidates for the cap as soon as they graduate.

Why You Need to Be Cautious with the Applications

The employers must understand that every single detail is considered important while filing a beneficiary for an H-1B visa. The USCIS would not consider a petition that is not properly filled by the employer, and they may end up declining it for the master’s cap.

While the USCIS wasn’t so particular about the school the candidate graduated from earlier, they have been paying more attention to it now, to see whether the institution satisfies the requirements for the cap. This has led to several cases where individuals with a master’s cap approval for their H-1B visa from years ago, had to revisit their terms to fit the present criteria.


It is thus, the responsibility of the petitioner and their beneficiaries to carefully go through these criteria for master’s cap before they apply for their petition. This could prevent them from the need to file requests for evidence (RFE) or notices of intent to revoke (NOIR) later during the process.

OnBlick can be your companion as you work your way through filing your H-1B visa petitions. From the beginning of the registration process to filling your Form I-9s digitally, OnBlick stays with you at every step, helping you avoid any important steps for an error-free registration.

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