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 2015 on April 1, 2014. 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 within the first week of the filing period and employers only had a 5-day window to file new H-1B petitions for their employees.  USCIS received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption.  On April 7, 2013, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as a "lottery") to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption limit.

Due to an upturn in hiring, we anticipate that the H-1B cap will be reached within the first five days again this year and a lottery will be conducted from the cases filed during the first week to randomly select the cases that the USCIS will adjudicate.  The remaining cases are then rejected without being processed.  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 file their H-1B petitions on April 1st.  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, J-1 Trainees or others.