As the holidays approach, employers should start preparing for the upcoming H-1B cap season. H-1B visas for next year’s cap season must be filed by April 1, 2016. This year, the H-1B cap was reached by April 7, 2015. Employers should start evaluating their labor needs now so they are prepared to compete for this limited supply of visas. 

U.S. businesses may use the H-1B visa program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, including, but not limited to scientists, engineers or computer programmers.

Each year, 65,000 H-1B visas may be awarded, with 20,000 reserved for foreign nationals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. H-1B visas are issued for an initial maximum period of three years. Visa extensions may be obtained up to an additional three years, for a total maximum period of stay of six years. The actual period of initial admission and any extension depends on the employer’s stated need. Although H-1B visas are temporary, H-1B visa holders may petition for lawful permanent resident status and work for employers long-term.