A Brief Summary of Things to Know for The 2016-17 H-1B Filing Season

If you are a foreign worker or U.S. employer, you may be familiar with something known as a US H-1B visa. This is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in occupations that require specific technical-type expertise. Many of these occupations are in mathematics, accounting, science, computer technology, and medicine. With this status, a US company can employ a foreign worker for up to six years; though there are exceptions that sometimes allow for extended periods of stay. This visa is especially helpful to employers who wish to bring in staff for long-term assignments in the US. Many employers, with the help of qualified counsel, find this process uncomplicated and have high success rates for using the H-1B category when hiring workers. Most employers utilize the H-1B category when they are facing a shortage of qualified workers in a particular occupation. Only highly skilled workers are eligible for H-1B visas; these workers include engineers, scientists, lawyers, teachers, computer specialists, and other professionals.

Employers must bear in mind that there is an annual numerical cap for H-1B visas. Congress has set this cap at 65,000. An additional 20,000 visas are available for workers possessing a master's degree or higher from a U.S. university. The cap certainly causes extra anxiety, because it is certain that there will be more than 85,000 applicants for H-1B visas. If the limit on H-1B visa numbers is reached on any one of the first five business days of the cap season, all petitions that USCIS receives during those five business days will still be accepted, but there will be a lottery to see if they will actually be selected. This is how it has been done for several years. So how do you know that you are eligible? The job must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a "specialty occupation" and be accepted:

  • Have a minimum entry requirement of a Bachelor's or higher degree.
  • The job will be unique or complex and can only be performed by somebody who has this degree.
  • The employer will usually make it a requirement to have a degree or its equivalent for this position.

April 1 is the target date to file an H-1B petition, and it is also a good idea to keep in mind that the preparation of the petition can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, depending on the situation at hand. Filing deadlines are always extremely important and not to be missed, or else the opportunity will be missed along with it. We stress the importance of remembering this.

The number of available H-1B visas is usually exhausted in the first week of April. I expect that this year, there will be more than 200,000 filings. This is an unfortunate matter but all petitions will need to be placed in a lottery to see which cases will be accepted. Those workers whose cases are accepted and later approved will be eligible to work on October 1, 2016. The reason I predict more than 200,000 filings is my experience with recent H-1B filing seasons. In the most recent filing season, more than 230,000 petitions were filed. This fact is why being timely matters!

If you expect to need legal help through the process, you should speak to an attorney with experience who can guide you and let you know the filing deadlines. Call Valdez Immigration Law Firm to learn more about the H-1B process.