Now is the time for employers to assess their FY2016 H-1B needs and to start preparing their petitions for submission on April 1.

On April 1, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting cap-subject H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2016, with an employment start date of October 1, 2015. We recommend that employers send all H-1B petitions subject to the FY2016 cap  to USCIS on March 31 for receipt by USCIS on April 1. Any cap-subject H-1B petitions that USCIS receives before April 1 will be rejected.

USCIS has a quota of 65,000 cap-subject H-1B visas each fiscal year. A separate allotment of 20,000 H-1B visas is available to foreign nationals who hold a master's or other advanced degree from a U.S. institution of higher education. As indicated in the below table, demand for H-1B visas has fluctuated in past years. A few years ago, it took months to reach the cap; recently, in 2013 and 2014, the cap was reached within the first few days of filing. Although it is not possible to predict with complete accuracy what the demand for H-1B visas will be this year, an improving economy and an increasing demand for qualified workers, especially in the information technology industry, strongly suggest that demand will be high and that the cap will be reached again very early this year, possibly within a week of April 1. Employers should therefore submit their cap-subject H-1B petitions as early as possible.

The chart below summarizes the increasing demand for cap-subject H-1B visas over the past seven years.

Click here to view table.

Only petitions filed on behalf of foreign nationals who have notpreviously been counted against the H-1B cap in the last six years are subject to this year's H-1B cap. H-1B petitions for foreign nationals employed by institutions of higher education, nonprofit research organizations, or governmental research organizations are not subject to the cap.

How This Affects You

Employers should review the immigration status of their current and potential foreign national employees and identify any individuals for whom H-1B status would be beneficial. These individuals include the following:

  • Recent graduates employed in F-1 status and candidates abroad who are subject to the annual H-1B cap
  • Candidates in some other nonimmigrant status (e.g., L-1B) who are approaching the maximum limits of their status and would benefit from a change of status to H-1B
  • Candidates in another nonimmigrant status who work for a different employer and would require an H-1B visa to change jobs
  • Candidates in TN, E, or H-1B1 status for whom an employer is considering pursuing permanent residence

Note that if the limit on H-1B visa numbers is reached on any one of the first five business days of the cap season, all petitions received by USCIS between Wednesday, April 1 and the close of business on Tuesday, April 7 will still be accepted, but their selection for adjudication will be subject to USCIS conducting a lottery among them. A lottery has been held for the past two years, and it is very likely that a lottery will be held again this year.