April 1, 2013 will be the first opportunity to file new H-1B petitions for employers wishing to hire new H-1B workers for an Oct. 1, 2013 start date. Because it is likely that the cap on the number of H-1Bs will be quickly reached, employers who are thinking about hiring a worker who will be new to H-1B status should file during the first week of April 2013 if possible.

The H-1B work visa classification is for “specialty occupations” that require at least a bachelor’s degree. It is anticipated that the improving economy will result in a higher demand for new H-1B workers than in previous years. Last year, more than 22,000 petitions were received by the USCIS in the first week of April. By mid-June 2012, the limitation of 65,000 H-IBs was reached (the “cap”). Likewise, the cap for the additional 20,000 “advanced degree” H-1Bs for persons with U.S. master’s degrees or higher was reached in mid-June 2012. Several years ago, when the economy was at its peak, the H-1B cap was reached within days following the April 1 filing date. Because we cannot be certain when the cap will be reached this year, we strongly advise employers who are interested in hiring a new H-1B worker to begin preparing the H-1B petition immediately by contacting Davis Wright’s immigration group. Although H-1B petitions cannot be submitted until April 1, it may take up to two weeks to prepare all the necessary documents.

Note: This deadline does not apply to certain research organizations and university-affiliated employers who are exempt from the H-1B cap, and may hire new H-1B workers year-round. In addition, this deadline does not apply to H-1B extensions and H-1B change-of-employer petitions for persons already in H-1B status who were counted against the cap in prior years.