It’s that time of year again; time for employers to evaluate their H-1B work visa hiring needs in anticipation of H-1B filing season. For those readers who may not be familiar with the H-1B, it is a nonimmigrant visa category that allows employers to hire skilled foreign workers for temporary employment in the U.S. The annual cap for new H-1Bs is 65,000, with an additional 20,000 visa numbers reserved for applicants who possess a Master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution. Note that only petitions filed on behalf of foreign nationals who have not previously been counted against the H-1B cap in the last six years are subject to this year's H-1B cap. In addition, foreign nationals employed by institutions of higher education, nonprofit research organizations, or governmental research organizations are not subject to the cap.
On Monday, April 1, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will begin accepting cap-subject H-1B petitions for FY 2014 with an employment start date of October 1, 2013. We recommend that all cap-subject petitions be sent to USCIS on Friday, March 29, 2013 for receipt by USCIS on April 1. Although demand for H-1Bs has fluctuated in the past few years, employers are advised to submit their petitions as early as possible. Employers should start now by reviewing the immigration status of their current and prospective foreign national employees and identifying any individuals that they may want to sponsor for H-1B status. This could include, for example, recent graduates employed pursuant to F-1 Optional Practical Training, foreign nationals in TN status that the company may wish to sponsor for permanent residence, and candidates working for another company in L-1 or some other non-immigrant status who would need to change their status to H-1B in order to accept new employment.