If you are currently looking to hire qualified professionals who are not U.S. workers, now is the time to act. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") will begin accepting cap-subject H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year 2014 on April 1, 2013. Employers who have not made appropriate arrangements for needed H-1B cap filings are urged to do so without further delay.

The number of new H-1B visas is capped at 65,000 per fiscal year. Last year, the H-1B cap was reached on June 11, 2012 and employers only had a 10-week window to file new H-1B petitions for their employees.   Due to an upturn in hiring, we anticipate that the H-1B cap will be reached earlier this year and the window to file will be even smaller. When the available H-1B numbers are used for the fiscal year, which begins October 1 and ends September 30, the cap is considered reached, and no additional cap-subject petitions can be approved until the next fiscal year.   In order to maximize the chances of obtaining one of the new available H-1B visas, employers should plan to submit their H-1B petitions as early as possible, preferably the first week in April 2013.

Employers who are not certain which of their employees may require a new H-1B visa should seek guidance from counsel to meet the approaching H-1B cap filing season. Besides new hires, likely candidates in your current workforce are recent graduates working pursuant to their Optional Practical Training ("OPT"), L-1B employees or others.