Contributed by Jacqueline Lentini McCullough
The H-1B visa category is used by employers hiring a foreign national in a professional-level position (“specialty occupation”) requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. Typically, H-1B petitions are filed for foreign nationals hired from abroad, or for F-1 and/or J-1 students who are currently working in the U.S. pursuant to student status work authorization. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B petitions on April 1, 2013, with a start date of October 1, 2013 (FY 2014).
There is an annual cap of 65,000 new H-1B petitions permitted per fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 H-1B’s available for foreign nationals who have earned a U.S. Master’s degree or higher, who are exempt from the H-1B cap. In addition the special rule pertaining to foreign nationals who have earned a U.S. Master’s degree or higher, petitions for new H-1B employment are exempt from the annual cap if the foreign national will work at an institution of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations.
While last year the H-1B cap was reached in mid-June, it is anticipated that the quota will be reached earlier this year. Of course no one has a crystal ball to say exactly when the cap will be exhausted. Consequently, it is advisable to file an H-1B petition by April 1, 2013. Beware, the first step of the application process is filling the Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor, which can delay the application process.
Typically, it takes approximately five to seven days for an LCA to be certified, and the LCA must be certified before filing the H-1B petition with USCIS.