H1B Receipt Notice: Applicant FAQs
Once an H-1B visa has been filed, the applicant has an anxious wait to hear if their petition has beat the odds and been selected in the H1B visa lottery. The good news will come in the form of the H1B receipt notice.
We look at some of the commonly asked questions about the H1B receipt notice and what it means for the application as a whole.
What does the H1B receipt notice mean?
H1B petitions that are subject to the visa cap will be drawn by USCIS at random as part of the H1B visa lottery. The chosen petitioners are then sent an H1B receipt notice from USCIS advising that the H1B petition will progress to the next stage.
Also known as an I-797 receipt notice, the H1B receipt notice does not mean your visa has been granted, rather that you have made it to the following step – H1B adjudication.
How long does it take to get a receipt from USCIS?
Specific timings vary by year.
In general, selected petitions with premium processing should expect to receive the H1B notice by email within around 1-3 weeks of the date the visa cap was reached – this is typically within a matter of days of the annual H1B window opening in early April.
For regular processing, notices will be sent by post around 3 – 6 weeks after the window was closed.
Receipt notices for the Masters quota are typically sent out first, followed by the Regular quota.
Petitions that have not been selected through the lottery will receive notification at a later date, once the selected petitioners have been notified and all of the H1B receipt notices have been sent out. Unselected petitioners will have their application package returned along with all processing fees relating to the application, including the premium processing fee where opted for.
What is the difference between priority and standard processing?
The difference in cost relates to expedited handling of the application.
With premium processing, the employer (or nominated attorney) will receive the H1B receipt notice by email first followed by a printed copy by post.
Regular processing of the H1B includes postal notification only, as such it takes around two weeks longer to come through than premium processing.
When is payment taken for the filing fee?
The filing fee will only be taken (ie checks cashed) if the petition it relates to has been selected in the lottery.
In some cases under regular process, checking your bank statement can sometimes be an earlier indication of lottery selection than waiting for the receipt notice to arrive by post.
What happens after the H1B receipt notice?
Once the H1B receipt notices have been distributed, USCIS will start the visa adjudication process.
If there are no issues with the petition, for example no RFE is issued, approvals of premium visa petitions can follow from as soon as mid-May to early June. RFEs issued at this time will result in the processing period effectively being reset.
Regular petitions should hear either a decision or RFE from around June 1st.
How can I check the status of my petition?
Your receipt notice will include a receipt number. It is a 16-digit alphanumeric reference which you need to be able to check the progress of your petition. The H1B visa status tracking system is available on the USCIS website is for H1B applicants who have filed their H1B visa petition.
There are various different indicators of status, including:
- Case Was Received and a Receipt Notice Was Emailed Your petition has been selected and your employer or attorney has been notified by email under the premium processing service.
- Case Was Received Your case is with USCIS and a printed copy of the receipt notice will have been posted to your employer or attorney. If you have upgraded to premium, the notification will also be emailed.
- Request for Additional Evidence Notice Was Mailed An RFE has been sent to your employer or attorney. A response providing additional information or documentation will be required before the given deadline or your application will not proceed.
- Response to USCIS’ Request for Evidence Was Received All requested information in the RFE has been received by USCIS and your petition is being adjudicated.
- Case Was Approved and My Decision Was Emailed Under premium processing, your visa has been approved and the decision emailed to your employer or attorney.
- Case Was Approved Under regular processing, your visa has been granted and printed notification has been sent by post to your employer or attorney.
- Fee Will Be Refunded This does not necessarily mean your petition has been denied. Check with your employer or attorney to confirm the details behind this status; it could be that unnecessary fees have been paid and subsequently refunded.
- Decision Notice Mailed The petition has been denied. Your employer or attorney has been notified. The grounds for refusal and options to appeal are contained in the notification letter.
H1B visa transfer and change of employer
The timings around transferring H1B status to a new employer can be challenging to decipher, not least as USCIS timeframes differ and whether premium processing is indeed available.
The date of ‘filing’ can be evidenced with the USCIS hard-copy receipt, FedEx or UPS confirmation of delivery.
Technically, an individual with valid H1B status may begin work with a new sponsoring employer the date on which the USCIS receives their H-1B transfer petition from their new employer, ie before receiving actual approval of their H1B petition.
To do so, they must not have been employed without authorization and they must have entered the US on a lawful basis. However, this may not always be recommended in the circumstances and a more cautious approach of awaiting formal petition approval may be more appropriate. Take advice on your case to ensure you do not get caught out by the rules.
What if USCIS deny the H1B transfer after starting new employment?
Should USCIS refuse the petition to transfer H1B status to a new employer, the employee must ceae working with immediate effect. Their permission to work lawfully in the US will cease with immediate effect. Without lawful status, you will have to leave the US.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.