April 1, 2013, is the first day that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will start accepting cap-subject H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year 2014 for employment with a start date of October 1, 2013, or later. Many employers recruiting foreign workers know that the annual “H-1B cap” for Fiscal Year 2013 was reached on June 11, 2012. It is expected that the demand for new H-1B petitions will be even higher this year due to an earlier-hit cap last year and the improving economic conditions in the U.S.

As the annual H-1B quota is likely to be reached earlier, employers should file all new H-1B petitions on April 1, 2013, when the H-1B quota opens, in order to maximize the chance of obtaining new petitions for current and/or future employees subject to the H-1B cap. We recommend that employers start identifying persons for whom H-1B sponsorship is needed as soon as possible to allow sufficient time for petition preparation, including the time required to file and receive certification of the prerequisite Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) from the U.S. Department of Labor. Current LCA processing times are approximately seven days, and employers must take this additional processing time into consideration to guarantee the timely approval of the LCA and the ability to file the H-1B petition on April 1, 2013.

The H-1B visa has an annual numerical limit "cap" of 65,000 visas each fiscal year. An additional 20,000 visas are available for foreign nationals (usually F-1 students) who have graduated from a U.S. college or university with a Master's degree or higher. Individuals currently employed as F-1 students or J-1 trainees, individuals seeking to change to H-1B from another work status (such as L-1, TN or E-3), and individuals outside of the United States commonly require new, cap-subject H-1Bs.