H-1B Visa Season Approaches; Time to Get Ready
Yes, April 1st is coming, Besides April Fool pranks, this particular date has more serious connotations for those who are willing to obtain an H-1B non-immigrant visa status in U.S and employers who seek to benefit from the advantages of the specialized and skilled workforce. Specialty occupations, which are the subject of the H-1B visa program, refer to work positions requiring a minimum bachelors degree or its equivalent.
H-1B Visa Program in a Nut Shell
Mandated by the relevant legislation, the H-1B visa program offers an opportunity to employ 65,000 educated and quality foreign labor with a bachelor degree (i.e., H-1B cap) in a large variety of different sectors. Also, the program renders 20,000 additional employment visas for those having advanced degrees attained from U.S universities (i.e., master cap). Not surprisingly, exemptions do exist. Governmental research entities, non-profits, and higher education institutions in the same research areas are privileged employers who enjoy being free from the annual H-1B cap ceiling. Furthermore, certain countries (e.g., Canada, Chile and Singapore) have additional quotas emanating from the bilateral agreements.
Every April 1st, USCIS starts accepting H-1B cap case filings and due to the highly increasing demand, closes the application window after five days. When the random selection process- commonly known as the lottery, is completed, granted H-1B visas become available effective on October 1st, which is the beginning of the new fiscal year in the U.S. USCIS generally finalizes the selection process and submits the relevant notices of action by beginning of May.
H-1B Visa permits its beneficiaries to stay in the USA for three years. However, note that this period is extendable for up to 6 years. On the other hand, if your employer is DoD and/or if you are working within a DoD related/sponsored project, then it may extend to 10 years. At this point, we should mention the dual intent character of the H-1B Visa. Indeed, being one of the limited numbers of visa categories that allow its beneficiaries to legally have an intent to convert their immigration status to green card holders, H-1B gains natural prominence. Moreover, immediate dependents of H-1B Visa holders – spouses and children under 21, can accompany them under the H-4 Visa category. Contrary to the general structure of non-immigrant visa status, some spouses can work in the U.S under certain circumstances.
Recent Changes Towards H-1B Visa 2020 FY Season
- President Trump’s Buy American Hire American Executive Order reflected common criticism against the H-1B by his administration. In response to this order, DHS has made several regulations. In order to employ “most deserving, most talented” workforce and ensure a more efficient H-1B process, DHS has reversed the H-1B cap selection order. Eventually, the number of visas awarded to candidates with advanced degrees from US Universities are more likely to increase now. USCIS estimates this Master Cap increase to be around 16 percent.
- DHS introduced an electronic registration process, which is suspended for the 2020 FY since the system checks are not complete yet.
- USCIS selectively restarted previously suspended H-1B premium processing recently only for petitions filed before December 22, 2018, for 2019 FY. Therefore, It does not seem likely that USCIS will allow premium processing of H-1B 2020 FY petitions.
Prepare For Upcoming H-1B Season
Immigration legislation is highly complicated, and the relevant processes are hectic for many individuals and employers. Therefore, it is important to get in touch with a competent and skillful attorney as soon as possible to discuss your H-1 B Visa case. There is no doubt that all procedures and details are a lot to take in such a limited article. Our competent and expert visa attorney team would gladly help you with reviewing, guiding and representing your H-1B employment visa application.
Before hiring legal counsel, your organization should determine the needs and priorities concerning the H-1B Visa Program. As for employees, they should reach out to their managers. Ultimately, employer organizations should be able to check off the following checklist:
- Academic documents (e.g., transcripts, diplomas)
- The immigration status of the prospective employee and his/her dependents
- Job descriptions relevant to the H-1B status
- Job titles, locations
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