H-1B Cap Season is Approaching
As 2015 draws to a close, many employers look to the coming year and evaluate staffing needs and related considerations. In a variety of situations, this means evaluating the need to sponsor workers on H-1B nonimmigrant visas. The H-1B nonimmigrant visa category is reserved for workers in "specialty occupations" (generally speaking, professional positions such as engineers, scientists, teachers, programmers, etc.), and the number of visas allocated this category on an annual basis is limited. U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services ("USCIS") will begin accepting petitions for the coming year’s allotment of H-1B visas on April 1, 2016. As in recent years, it is widely expected that the limit will be immediately reached, making it imperative for employers to timely prepare and submit their H-1B nonimmigrant visa petitions in order to have an opportunity of selection under this year’s cap.
In terms of numbers, each year there are 65,000 new H-1B nonimmigrant visas available along with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign nationals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. As noted above, employers may petition for one of these visas starting on April 1, 2016 for employment to begin on or after the commencement of the government’s fiscal year on October 1, 2016. With respect to the 2015 H-1B cap, USCIS received approximately 233,000 H-1B petitions for the 85,000 total available openings. This resulted in the imposition of a lottery system to discern which of those 233,000 petitions were selected for adjudication. Again, similar application levels are widely anticipated for this coming year, making timely submission of paramount importance.
If you have questions about the H-1B nonimmigrant visa process, other options to consider if the above timeline seems to challenging to overcome, or other general questions about employment-based immigration, please contact a member of Koley Jessen’s Employment, Labor and Benefits Practice Group.