Do not delay in preparing your H-1B visa applications as the demand is great, and it is likely that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will receive more applications than there are available during the first week of April 2015. There is an annual cap on the number of H-1B visas available: 65,000 for those applicants holding the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree and an additional 20,000 visas available for foreign nationals with a U.S. Master’s degree or higher. In the past several years, the USCIS has conducted a lottery to determine which applicants would be eligible for an H-1B visa due to the great demand.
It is recommended that employers file on or about April 1, 2015 to secure a slot for employment beginning on the fiscal year 2016 that begins on October 1, 2015. Employers can file H1-B applications no earlier than six months in advance of the anticipated start date, and therefore April 1, marks the beginning of the race for obtaining an H1-B Visa. The last two fiscal years have seen the cap be filled within the first week of the filing period, resulting in USCIS conducting a lottery on April 10, 2014 and April 7, 2013. Companies employing students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) with work visas expiring in the months between April and September 2015, may have the opportunity to extend the work of students until October 1 with a timely filed H-1B visa application.
In addition, every H-1B application requires a Labor Condition Application (LCA) certified by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL takes approximately one week to certify an LCA. If an employer has not previously filed an LCA with the DOL, it may take an additional week for the DOL to verify the employer’s Federal Employer Identification Number.
It is important for companies to carefully prepare their applications as the USCIS has increased its scrutiny and regularly requests additional evidence from employers. Employers need to work with counsel to develop detailed explanations as to why the employee qualifies for this visa. For more information about H-1B visas and other immigration matters, please contact Joel Pfeffer, Elaina Smiley, or Gary M. Sanderson.