Expected high demand for H-1B visas should have businesses working on their strategies to obtain needed visas. Last year, the Fiscal Year 2014 quota of H-1B visa petitions was met within the first week in which petitions were accepted, on April 5, 2013. Demand exceeded the available number of visas by nearly one-and-one-half times and a regulated lottery was held to determine which applications would be accepted. Demand is expected to be even higher this year. To ensure that H-1B petitions have a chance to be considered for FY2015, they should be filed by the first day of the season, April 1, 2014. 

U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, including scientists, engineers, and computer programmers. The H-1B visa category is essential to many businesses wishing to employ foreign nationals in these professional positions. 

Each year, the government makes available 65,000 new H-1B visas (this limit is commonly referred to as the “H-1B cap”) for individuals who have not recently or ever previously held H-1B status. These may include students in F-1 status who are completing Optional Practical Training (OPT), Canadian or Mexican professionals in TN (nonimmigrant NAFTA) status, employees transferring for a short time from an affiliated company abroad in L status, and the like. It is especially important for employers of F-1 students to obtain the H-1B in a timely fashion. In addition to the 65,000 “regular” H-1B visa numbers made available each year, an additional 20,000 H-1B numbers are set aside for individuals who have obtained a Master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution. Cases approved under the H-1B cap will have a start date of October 1, 2014, the first date of FY2015.