A visa cap refers to the limit on the number of temporary visas that can be issued each year.  Depending on the type of visa, and the country involved, only a certain number of visas can be issued each year for each category.  These are also referred to as “visa quotas”.  Visa caps are subject to change every year. 

Some visa categories allow for a consistently higher number of visas each year than for other categories.  For example, the quota for H1-B visas (employment visas) is usually around 150,000 per year.  In contrast, the quota for H1-C visas (nursing visas) is as low as 500 per year.  Thus, the availability of visas depends on the type of temporary visa being filed for, and also the background of the applicant. 

How Do I Determine What the Cap is For a Visa?

It is sometimes possible to determine the visa caps for a given year by visiting certain government websites that maintain such listings.  However, depending on the type of visa you’re researching, the calculations can get very, very complicated.  This is especially true for visas based the family preference categories.

For example, the quotas for family-based visas are determined not only by the category and preference, but also by how many visas were issued during the previous year.  For example, leftover visas (if any) from a higher preference may be filtered down to a lower preference (similar to the way “rollover” minutes work for cell phone plans). 

As you can see, trying to calculate these caps can get very complicated.  Thus, you may need to contact an immigration lawyer for advice if you need more research done for you or a loved one.

Are There Any Exceptions For the Visa Caps?

Usually, if the visa caps have been met for a given year, there aren’t really any exceptions given for applicants.  That is, once the visa quota has been met for the application year, the visa’s don’t get issued anymore and the application time period is closed. 

If the non-citizen or sponsor wishes to file for a visa application, they may want to explore other options, such as filing in a different category if possible.  Bear in mind that there are filing fees for each application, and the applications do take some time to process.  Again, consulting with a lawyer before actually submitting an application can help a lot in terms of saving time and money on the application process. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Understanding Visa Caps?

Visa caps can sometimes be tricky, since they can change from year to year.  If you or a loved one of yours needs help with a visa application, you should contact a qualified immigration lawyer in your area.  Working with an immigration lawyer can help increase your chances at obtaining the visa that is right for you and your family.  Experienced immigration lawyers will be able to advice you on the visa caps for each given category.