• USCIS Update January 30, 2008
  • NAFSA-USICS liaison February 6, 2008
  • NAFSA-USCIS liaison February 11, 2008

Starting January 30, 2008, H-1B cap-exempt petitions filed by the following cap-exempt employer types should be filed at the California Service Center (CSC), regardless of place of employment or location of employer:

  • Institutions of higher education, as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, 20 U.S.C. 1001(a);
  • Nonprofit organizations or entities related to or affiliated with institutions of higher education; and
  • Nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations, as defined in 8 CFR 214.2(h)(19)(iii)(C).

These are the same cap-exempt employer categories specified by INA § 214(g)(5)(A)-(B).

This advisory applies only to H-1B I-129s filed by the above-referenced employers. I-129s for H-1B cases other than those filed by the above-referenced employers should continue to be filed under regular filing guidelines.


February 6, 2008. All such petitions should be filed at CSC. Updated

USCIS has confirmed for NAFSA that all I-129 petitions filed by employers that qualify for cap exemption under INA § 214(g)(5)(A)-(B) [i.e. institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations or entities related to or affiliated with institutions of higher education, and nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations] should be filed with the CSC, regardless of whether the petition is for initial classification, change of status, extension of stay, or any other reason. From a purely "forms" perspective, then, if the employer checks "yes" to box 1, 2, or 3 in Part C of the Form I-129 H-1B Data Collection Supplement, the I-129 should be filed with the CSC regardless of "basis of classification" selected by the employer in Part 2 Item 2 of Form I-129.

NAFSA asked USCIS to clarify this point due to some confusion caused by the wording of footnote 1 in the USCIS notice. USCIS confirmed for NAFSA that footnote 1 refers only to petitions filed by employers not listed at INA § 214(g)(5)(A)-(B), who may or may not be requesting cap exemption on another cap exemption basis.

February 11, 2008.Updated After receiving reports that some petitions received at CSC were improperly rejected, NAFSA contacted USCIS HQ. HQ reported that "CSC spoke with the contractor this morning and they are up-to-date on this now. Petitioners may use the centralized address or the PP street address and the case will be accepted and processed. Please tell them to resubmit to either address."

Filing Tips

These petitions will be handled by a special unit comprised of experienced CSC H-1B adjudicators, who will focus on processing H-1B cap exempt petitions.

Filing Addresses

For Direct Mail:

U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
California Service Center
ATTN: CAP EXEMPT H-1B Processing Unit
P.O. BOX 30040
Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-3004

For non-United States Postal Service deliveries (e.g. private couriers):

U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
California Service Center
ATTN: CAP EXEMPT H-1B Processing Unit
24000 Avila Road, Room 2312
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

For petitions requesting Premium Processing

USCIS also confirmed that Premium Processing petitions that are cap-exempt under INA § 214(g)(5)(A)-(B) should be filed with the CSC premium processing unit with the additional words shown below:

U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
California Service Center
ATTN: CAP EXEMPT H-1B Processing Unit
24000 Avila Road, Room 2312
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Marking your petitions and mailing envelopes

"Each H-1B petitioner is encouraged to mark the outside of the envelope and the top margin of the I-129 form, with “EXEMPT.” This will ensure quick identification of the H-1B filing throughout the petition’s processing at CSC."

"If a cap exempt H-1B petition is received at a different Service Center, that Service Center will expeditiously forward the petition to the CSC for processing. In the near future, USCIS will post special filing instructions to Form I-129 requiring all qualifying H-1B cap exempt petitions to be filed at the CSC."

Receipting and other considerations

"Please note, the highest volume of H-1B filings occurs during the month of April (six months before the new fiscal year). This may result in longer than average receipting times or other interruptions in processing times. The public is reminded that petitioners may file a qualifying H-1B cap exempt petition at any time of the year dependent on the petitioner’s need, and no earlier than six months ahead of the intended start date."

I-129s Filed Before This New Policy Went Into Effect

February 11, 2008.Updated

In response to a NAFSA inquiry, the Vermont Service Center (VSC) provided the following information about their handling of affected Forms I-129 that were received prior to the filing policy changes:

  • On Monday, February 4, 2008, VSC began sending unreceipted cases it receives in its mailroom to CSC for receipting and adjudication.
  • For cases received prior to the new policy, if VSC receipted the case, it will remain at VSC for adjudication. As of February 11, VSC was working H-1B cases with a receipt date of 1/22/08 (approximately 2,500 total, excluding extension cases).
  • To convert current cases receipted and pending at VSC to Premium Processing, Form I-907 and the $1,000 fee should be sent to VSC.
  • For correction of errors on approval notices that were adjudicated at VSC, petitioners should continue to use the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) 1-800 phone line to request a referral to VSC for a corrected approval notice.