H-1B Alert: Filing Starts April 1 for Next Fiscal Year
Congress sets a limit on the number of H-1B visas available each year. This past fiscal year, H-1B numbers were exhausted within the first five days of filing. The Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL) anticipates that the numbers will run out quickly again this year.
If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives more petitions than it can accept, it will use a lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions filed during that period to reach the numerical limit. USCIS did this last year. The agency will reject petitions that are subject to the cap but not selected, as well as petitions received after it has the necessary number of petitions needed to meet the cap.
Every time an employer hires an individual for a specialty occupation, an H-1B number must be available. (An exception arises where the individual is already with another employer in H-1B status, but this employer cannot be a university/college or a nonprofit government research organization.) When numbers run out, the employer must wait until the next fiscal year to file for an H-1B. In some cases, there may be no other nonimmigrant visa option for the individual and the individual may have to leave the U.S. or, at least, not be able to work for the employer until a year later.
While the H-1B numbers for the next fiscal year do not become available again until October 1, 2014, employers may file petitions to request numbers as early as six months in advance, beginning on April 1, 2014. That date signals the start of what has become an annual race to get petitions filed as early as possible to ensure acceptance before the cap of 85,000 visas is reached. The 85,000 cap includes the basic cap of 65,000, plus an additional 20,000 H-1B visas available to foreign nationals who have earned an advanced degree (master’s or higher) from a U.S. university.
As in past years, some foreign nationals are not subject to the H-1B cap, including individuals who already have been counted toward the cap in a previous year and have not been outside the United States subsequently for one year or more. Also, certain employers, such as universities, government-funded research organizations, and some nonprofit entities are exempt from the H-1B cap. All other employers should be aware of the H-1B cap.
ABIL encourages employers to review their hiring needs and determine whether they should initiate H-1B processing for anticipated hires, or even recent hires in other nonimmigrant status now.
You should consider filing an H-1B petition this April if:
ABIL recommends that clients keep their ABIL attorney apprised of all new hires needing H-1B status before October 1, 2014. Examples would include F-1 students hired with optional practical training that expires before April 1, 2014, or current L-1B nonimmigrants who will have spent five years in that status as of any date before October 1, 2014. Contact your ABIL attorney now if you have any questions or would like to file an H-1B petition.
- You want to hire an individual who is not in H-1B status already.
- You are hiring an individual who is already in H-1B status but is currently employed with a college/university (this situation requires a new H-1B number).
- You are hiring an individual who is already in H-1B status but is with a nonprofit government research organization (this situation requires a new H-1B number).
- Your employee is in F-1 student status.
- Your employee is in L-1B status and is considering seeking legal permanent residence in the United States.
- Your employee is in another nonimmigrant status and may want to seek legal permanent residence in the United States.
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