The April 1, 2018, deadline for H-1B visa petitions will be here soon. If last year is any indication, employers have to prepare H-1B petitions now because this year’s H-1B cap will likely be reached by April 8, 2018. Employers should focus their attention on evaluating and determining their labor needs in the upcoming months with the anticipation of a limited supply of H-1B visas.

U.S. employers compete for H-1B visas to employ foreign workers in professional occupations that require specialized knowledge like scientists, nurses, technology professionals, teachers, engineers or computer programmers.

Each year, up to 65,000 H-1B visas may be awarded, with 20,000 reserved for foreign nationals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. H-1B visas are issued for an initial maximum period of three years. Visa extensions may be obtained for up to three additional years, for a total maximum period of stay of six years. The actual period of initial admission and any extension depends on the employer’s stated need. Although H-1B visas are temporary, H-1B visa holders may petition for lawful permanent resident status and work for employers long-term.

To prepare for this year’s H-1B season employers should:

  1. Determine where labor shortages exist.
  2. Determine whether U.S. talent is available to satisfy those labor shortages.
  3. Identify foreign talent who can meet the employer’s need.
  4. Initiate the H-1B visa process for talented foreign professionals.