U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will start new cap-subject H-1B petitions on Monday, April 1, 2013.  Employers not wishing to take any chances will be sending their H-1B petitions on Friday, March 29 to ensure that their petitions will be date-stamped by USCIS on the very first day of the H-1B filing season.  These new cap-subject H-1B petitions will have a start of October 1, 2013.

The H-1B work status is for “specialty occupations”.  These occupations require the employee to have university-level degree or experience to fulfill the position.  Each year, there are 65,000 H-1Bs available for the “regular” quota.   For individuals who have obtained a US master’s degree or higher, an additional 20,000 H-1Bs are set aside for them.  When these additional 20,000 “Master’s Cap” H-1Bs run out, petitions for individuals with a US master’s degree will start using H-1Bs from the “regular” 65,000 quota, quickening the pace by which the quota is exhausted.

Only a first-time H-1B employee will require a new quota number.  An H-1B change-of-employer or an H-1B extension filing is not counted towards the year’s quota numbers.

We anticipate a run for H-1Bs this year starting on April 1, and the quota could be exhausted as early as mid-May, or even the end of April.   H-1Bs have been exhausted earlier increasingly for the past three years, and we anticipate this trend to continue this year.

  • 2012 H-1B quota exhausted on:  June 11, 2012
  • 2011 H-1B quota exhausted on:  November 22, 2011
  • 2010 H-1B quota exhausted on:  January 26, 2011

Employers can ensure that they are ready to submit cap-subject H-1B petitions by April 1 by following these steps:

  1. Educate all recruiters and human resource partners about the H-1B quotas and the small filing window.
  2. Identify all current employees who may need an H-1B cap petition, such as individuals on student status with OPT work permit (F-1) and individuals that are currently employed under other work statuses (TN, L-1, E-3, etc.) who will need to convert to H-1B.
  3. Identify any potential new hires that may need a cap-subject H-1B, such as college recruits or lateral hires.  If the company is considering merging with or acquiring another company, an inventory of the people from the acquired company who will need cap-subject H-1Bs is particularly important.
  4. Work closely with your HR business partners and immigration providers to prepare a comprehensive list of everyone who will need a new H-1B cap-subject filing this year, so that it is easy to update the list without letting anyone fall under the radar.
  5. Prepare job titles, job descriptions, work location(s), and salary for each employee – this information is needed for the H-1B filing.
  6. Work closely with your immigration service provider to identify any “problem cases” early on and ensure that all H-1B fillings are ready for submission on April 1.

Although recent immigration proposals have addressed the possibility of increasing the availability of H-1Bs and a market-based adjustment process, such discussion will not affect this year’s H-1B season.  Please note that it takes an absolute minimum of seven days to prepare a new H-1B petition because of the “LCA” certification process.  Unfortunately new H-1B cap-subject cases cannot be prepared and submitted overnight.