On April 1, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") will begin accepting applications for one of the most popular U.S. work visas, the H-1B visa. Our office is already preparing H-1B petitions for companies throughout the U.S. seeking to hire highly-skilled foreign workers, in the hope that they will be among the 85,000 selected by USCIS on April 1st to potentially receive the highly in demand visa. Our intelligence and past experience suggest that there will be more H-1B applications received by USCIS on April 1st than there are available visas, and a lottery will take place (as in years past). Therefore, we urge employers to identify candidates and initiate H-1B cases NOW.
The H-1B visa category allows qualified professionals to enter the U.S. to work for U.S. employers. Under current immigration law, only 65,000 new H-1B visas are issued each year with an additional 20,000 visas issued to individuals with advanced degrees from a U.S. academic institutions.
U.S. employers may file an H-1B cap-subject petition starting April 1st for the potential employee to commence work in the U.S. on October 1st. In the previous several years, demand vastly outpaced supply with the cap being reached during the first week of filing. As such, with more applications received than visas available, USCIS conducted a lottery of all the petitions received between April 1st and April 5th, 2014 to select those that would be reviewed and adjudicated.
Evaluating Potential Candidates
Due to the increased demand for the H-1B visa, it is important that employers evaluate candidates early to ensure that all petitions are submitted by April 1st. Additionally, employers should evaluate their current workforce and consider whether qualifying F-1 students (working in OPT) and TN and L-1B professionals may benefit from the filing of an H-1B petition.
In light of the expected demand, employers who would like to sponsor a worker for an H-1B visa should act NOW. There are several prerequisite steps that must occur before an employer can file an H-1B petition with USCIS. These steps include registering the company with the Department of Labor (DOL), posting required notices, and obtaining DOL certification of a Labor Condition Application. These prerequisite steps can take up to three to four weeks, so time is of the essence, and starting early will allow sufficient time to accomplish all required steps.