The Law @ Work

Employers Should Begin Preparing for the H-1B Lottery’s April Filing Deadline

by Marylou Fabbo

Earlier this month, Skoler Abbott launched its new Immigration @ Work blog.  We are delighted that so many of our readers signed up for the blog.  For those who have not, and are interested in staying up to date on immigration-related issues in the workplace, please sign up here.

Today, we are bringing an important workplace immigration topic to everyone’s attention.  The H-1B Visa is a temporary, non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine.  The Visa is good for 3 years, with a potential extension to 6 years.  Employers who want to employ someone in H-1B status next fall must begin the process now if they haven’t already done so because April 2, 2018 is the deadline for accepting new H-1B petitions for the fiscal year 2019, which begins on October 1, 2018.  Employers who have gone through the application process know that it can be time consuming,…and with a cost of several thousand dollars, it’s not inexpensive.  Failing to take action now may leave you without the worker you wish to employ this Fall.

What is the Cap?

The “cap” or quota for specialty occupations is set at 65,000, and there are an additional 20,000 visas available for workers with advanced degrees from U.S. colleges and universities.  If you have an employee who is from Singapore or Chile, you should consider applying for an H-1B1 visa as 6,500 visas each year are set aside specifically for citizens of those countries.  Last April, 199,000 petitions were submitted for the year that began October 2017.  This year even more employers are expected to seek H-1B visas as the result of questions about the continuing viability of employment authorization from two immigration statuses similar to the H-1B visa, spousal work permits and TN visas.

From F-1 Student Visa to H-1B

Don’t overlook your student employees.  Employers who don’t make decisions now about foreign students they want to employ beginning on October 1, 2018 may be out of luck.  Depending on the student’s circumstances, organizations employing college students on an F-1 Student Visa may need to sponsor an H-1B visa by April 2nd.  The F-1 Visa allows someone to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, and certain other institutions.  The student must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.  F-1 Visas permit students to work off campus in an area related to their field of study when certain conditions are met.  Many employers employ students in an F-1 capacity, value their contributions, and wish to employ them on a full-time basis after graduation.  An F-1 student with a timely filed H-1B petition and request for change of status will be allowed to extend the duration of F-1 status and any current employment authorization until the first day of the new fiscal year.

Premium Processing

Some employers may want to consider processing, which, for a fee of $1,225, will expedite processing.  USCIS guarantees a 15 calendar day period for processing a petition or will refund the fee.  Still, paying for premium processing only reduces the processing time for petitions. It does not guarantee the employee a spot in the lottery, and, if the petition happens to be selected, the employee’s start date will still be October 1st, like all other applicants.

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