On April 7, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") announced that it had reached the H-1B cap for fiscal year ("FY2018"). The congressionally mandated cap is set at 65,000 H-1B visas plus an additional 20,000 H-1B visas available to foreign nationals with a U.S. Master's degree or other advanced degree obtained in the U.S.
As a result of reaching the annual cap within the first five business days of April, USCIS ran a computed-generated lottery system. Per its usual procedure, USCIS first ran the U.S. Master's cap; those not selected in the first run were then placed in the regular H-1B cap for the second random lottery. On May 3, 2017 USCIS announced that it had completed data entry for all FY 2018 H-1B petitions. This means employers and attorneys can expect to see the agency cash filing fee checks and send receipt notices for petitions that were selected in the lottery. Once all the receipt notices are issued, USCIS will begin the process of returning petitions not selected in the lottery (including the non-cashed filing fee checks). In its most recent announcement, USCIS indicated it is unable to provide a definite time frame for returning those petitions but typically employers can expect them to be returned in late May or early June.
The total number of H-1B petitions received for FY2018 was 199,000, which is down 15% from the previous two years. By comparison, USCIS has over the past five years received 124,000 in FY2014, 172,500 in FY2015, 233,000 in FY2016 and 236,000 in FY2017. It is difficult to state with certainty why the decline occurred this year. I personally believe that the decrease in demand is due to outsourcing. Many US companies have established offices in South Asia to take advantage of cheaper labor and the inability to bring foreign workers to the US. In addition, the new STEM extension now allows for up to 2 additional years of OPT work authorization for certain graduates and employers prefer foreign nationals to utilize this more cost effective solution.
If you have not received a receipt notice for the H-1B application, you should investigate whether the checks for the filing fees, which you issued to the US Department of Homeland Security, have been cashed. If they have not been cashed it means that your H-1B has not been selected in the lottery and USCIS will return the application to you by the end of June.