Now is the time to start preparing H-1B petitions for consideration in the 2018 H-1B lottery. USCIS will begin accepting new H-1B visa petitions on April 2, 2018 for start dates of October 1, 2018. USCIS permits filing H-1B visa petitions up to six months before the start of the government fiscal year on October 1 (April 1 of any given year). Considering that April 1, 2018 falls on a Sunday, April 2 is the earliest possible acceptance date for new H-1B petitions.
The demand for new H-1B's always exceeds the limited supply. Since 2014, the quota has been filled within the first week and an H-1B lottery established. In recent years, more than 200,000 petitions were received for the 85,000 H-1B visas available. Given this demand, savvy employers are already preparing to submit new H-1B petitions for receipt at USCIS on April 2, 2018. After this year's quota closes, new H-1B's will not be accepted again until April 1, 2019.
The H-1B is one of the most commonly used visas for US employers, frequently used for jobs that normally require at least a university degree in a specific specialty. USCIS is limited to a quota of 65,000 new H-1B visa petitions that may be granted each fiscal year, plus an additional 20,000 new H-1B visa petitions available to individuals with graduate degrees from US universities.
Only new H-1B petitions are subject to quota limits. A foreign professional granted H-1B status under a previous year's quota is generally exempt from the current year's quota limit. This can be true if a foreign professional is extending their H-1B status, changing H-1B employers, or changing from another visa status (such as a current F-1 student who recently held H-1B status).
There is also a separate H-1B petition quota for nationals of Chile and Singapore that has never been exhausted. There are treaty benefits similar to the H-1B for citizens of Canada (TN), Mexico (TN), and Australia (E-3). There are also other visa categories besides the H-1B that employers may be able to use, but with very different requirements.
In addition, H-1B petitions by some employers are exempt. This exemption is generally limited to government agencies, institutions of higher education, and related research organizations or non-profit organizations.
Actions to Take
Employers should begin to prepare now to submit new H-1B petitions on March 30, 2018 for receipt at USCIS on April 2, 2018. There are a number of preliminary steps to complete and government approvals to obtain before filing an H-1B petition with USCIS. Now is the time to prepare job descriptions, organize wage and compensation information, collect academic documents and, where appropriate, secure translations and evaluations of education/experience.