h-1b-visa1It’s no April Fools—the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting petitions for H-1B visas on April 1.

As you may know, these visas allow foreign nationals to work in the United States on a temporary basis. An individual may be approved for an H-1B visa for up to three years at a time, for a maximum of six years.

The H-1B visa is a competitive classification, and the USCIS places limits on the number that may be issued in a given year. For fiscal year 2017, which starts on October 1, the cap has been set at 65,000. However, 20,000 additional H-1B visas are available for graduates with advanced degrees from colleges and universities in the United States and its territories.

Competitive process

Not surprisingly, given the limited number of H-1B visas available, the USCIS often receives a larger number of petitions than the agency is able to process. Assuming this is the case for fiscal year 2017, in an effort to ensure a fair awarding of available H-1B visas, the agency will randomly select petitions received during the first five business days in April for processing.

For this reason, employers who aim to hire workers through the H-1B visa process should get their applications prepared so they can be submitted as quickly as possible on or immediately after April 1.

The requirements for an H-1B visa are strict. For starters, H-1B workers must have a relationship with petitioning employers. In addition, the job itself must be classified as a specialty occupation within the individual’s field (this generally means a degree is required). Finally, the proposed wage must be in line with common standards for the industry.

Exceptions to the H-1B visa cap

Fortunately, in some cases, the cap does not apply—meaning that an individual’s ability to work in the United States may not require him or her to compete for an H-1B visa. The cap will not affect a large group of individuals who already have an H-1B visa. In other cases, employees of certain types of institutions do not need to worry about the cap. These include colleges and universities and affiliated nonprofits, along with research organizations affiliated with the government. Nonprofit research organizations are also exempt from the cap.

Given the competitiveness of the process, businesses and organizations looking to hire foreign nationals ought to stay on top of the H-1B visa process to ensure their petitions are filed properly and on time. For further guidance and to help ensure you file your petition on time, speak with an experienced immigration attorney.

BoltNagi is an established and respected immigration law firm serving individuals, businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.