Employers who need to sponsor foreign talent for H-1B visas are running out of time. The H-1B filing season for fiscal year 2019 starts on April 2, 2018. Employers who plan to sponsor H-1B professionals must begin the process immediately if they plan to retain or hire H-1B employees during the coming fiscal year which begins on October 1, 2018.

Here’s Why

To file an H-1B petition, employers must first obtain a certified labor condition application (LCA) from the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL can take as long as seven (7) to ten business days to certify the LCA which contains information about the employer’s obligations under the H-1B program. We strongly recommend having LCAs certified no later than March 15, 2018 for an on-time April 2, 2018 H-1B petition filing.

That means Employers must act this week if they hope to file H-1B petitions for foreign talent, including foreign students currently working for them on Optional Practical Training (OPT).

There is a statutory cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per year, plus an additional 20,000 slots for employees who’ve earned advance degrees from U.S. universities. Employers can file H-1B petitions on April 2, 2018, 6 months in advance of October 1, 2018, the first day of the 2019 fiscal year. Because of the large number of H-1B petitions filed every year, employers who hope to sponsor H-1B employees must file their petitions within the first few days of April. Last year, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received approximately 200,000 petitions for 85,000 available slots and reached the cap within seven (7) days.

USCIS uses a “lottery” to determine which petitions will be accepted for adjudication. Once all the available visas have been granted, no new H-1B petitions will be accepted until April, 2019.

It is important for employers seeking to hire or retain foreign talent under the H-1B program to act now.