On April 1, 2014, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will begin accepting applications for H-1B petition filings for Fiscal Year 2015. Due to the annual limit on the number of H-1B Visas that can be issued each fiscal year to employers subject to the cap, employers should be prepared to file their H-1B petitions promptly on April 1, 2014, which means contacting an immigration attorney prior to March 10, 2014, to allow for preparation time.

In 2013, as a result of the H-1B annual limit, USCIS exceeded their cap of 65,000 by April 5, 2013; thus, no longer accepting any applications past that date. USCIS also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption, totaling approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions during the 2013 filing period. On April 7, 2013, as a result of the overwhelming amount of petitions submitted, USCIS conducted a computer-generated random selection process (also known as a "lottery") in order to determine which petitions would be considered. Those petitions filed after the first week in April were not included in the lottery.

Because of the vast amount of applications and such a narrow window in which to file them, we highly suggest that employers file their H-1B petitions that are subject to the cap as close as possible to the April 1 start date.

What is an H-1B Visa? The H1-B Visa is a United States nonimmigrant visa, allowing a company to employ business professionals to work in the United Stated for a specific amount of time (up to six years) with the possibility of leading to a Green Card. The H-1B cap normally includes first-time H-1B beneficiaries. However, petitions for new H-1B employment are exempt from the annual cap under certain conditions.

Additionally, there are several alternatives to H-1B Visas. Employers who miss the Fiscal Year 2015 cap should take into consideration these options before deciding that an employee cannot work or be hired due to unavailability of H-1B Visas. If you have any employees needing to file an H-1B petition this year, please disseminate this information to them as soon as possible. As always, if you or your employees have any questions, please contact one of the members of our immigration team: Donna Galchus, Misty Borkowski or Missy Duke.

For more information on the H-1B Program, click here.

 For training opportunities regarding H-1B visas and other immigration issues, click here.