Time Is Running Out To File H-1B Visas

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by Traci K and BrightMove Applicant Tracking and Recruiting Software

H-1B visas come into play when organizations wish to bring on highly skilled foreign nationals for temporary work assignments. These candidates may be currently in their home country, gaining valuable experience or education that you are dying to get your hands on, or they could be in the United States already, attending school on a student visa. Whatever the case may be, if bringing them on your payroll is part of your recruitment strategy, or has been in the past, you may not be a stranger to the H-1B visa and the associated processes.

H-1B visa beneficiaries must either have a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree or equivalent. There is a cap of 65,000 visas set for Bachelor’s petitions and an extra 20,000 for those with Master’s Degrees (Master’s Degree candidates that apply after the 20,000 extra are fulfilled will be counted towards the 65,000 cap). Caps are lifted each fiscal year (FY) season on October 1st. You may apply for an H-1B visa (including extensions) as early as 6 months in advance of the requested approval date, so April 1st is the earliest each year that H-1B petitions for new beneficiaries may be filed.

For those that filed petitions back in 2007 and 2008 (FY 2008 and 2009), you  may remember that if you did not make the earliest submission date of April 1, you did not have a chance at an H-1B visa that year. For both filing years the cap was fulfilled on the very first day. The economy shaped the cap trends over the next few years, as caps for FY 2010, 2011 and 2012 were not fulfilled until between November and January of those fiscal years.

In what many are hoping is a sign that we may digging a little more quickly out this economic hole, the H-1B cap for FY 2013 is filling at a much faster rate than in the previous few years. As of May 11, 2012, of the 65,000 regular cap, 36,700 eligible petition have been filed. For the Masters cap, 14,800 eligible petitions toward the 20,000 cap have been filed. By comparison, these filing numbers were not reached until between October and December in the previous three filing years. Forecasters believe with F-1 visa recipients graduating and those on OPT (Optional Practical Training) being at the time of year where they will be transitioning to H-1B visas with employers, the cap could be met as early as mid-June. Missing this year’s cap would mean foreign nationals you may want to hire would have to wait until October of 2013 or later, depending on how quickly the cap if filled next year.

If you haven’t started preparations for your H-1B filing, your time is running out! The petition paperwork is slightly labor-intensive. Be sure to include all of the following when filing, including a duplicate copy of the petition and all attachments if this is a new beneficiary (this information can be found on the USCIS website):

  • Prior to filing the H-1B, you must complete the Department of Labor (DOL) Labor Condition Application. This process is completed at a state level and can vary on timing. Keep this in mind when calculating how long the H-1B process may take. More information on the LCA process can be found on the DOL’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification website.
  • Form I-129, revision date November 23, 2010, or later, all sections completed, including supplements.
    • USCIS prefers forms to be filled out in black ink and all submitted forms must have original signatures.
  • Signed checks or money orders for the filing fees (in most cases, fees are non-refundable).
  • Required documentation and evidence in support of the petition.
    • Documentation includes proof of the beneficiary’s educational background. This includes final transcripts, registrar letter confirming degree requirements have been met, a degree evaluation for foreign degrees showing US equivalency or, for qualifications based on education and experience, substantial evidence to support this claim.

For those in a rush under normal circumstances or looking to beat the current cap fulfillment, Premium Processing Service is offered for an additional fee of $1,225. Form I-907 may be filled out and attached to the H-1B petition with the filing fee and approval or denial will be issued within 15 calendar days. With the cap numbers dwindling, the USCIS stands to pocket a nice bonus for those trying to beat the ticking clock.

Traci K. is an HR professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.


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