H-1B Season Has Arrived!

Do you believe one of your employees qualifies for an H-1B visa? If so, now is the time to start work on his/her H-1B visa application.

On April 2nd, 2018, US Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting H-1B visa petitions for the Fiscal Year 2019 with an anticipated work start date of October 1, 2018. Although that leaves two months until applications are accepted, please note that depending on the specifics of each individual’s case, it could take up to a month and a half of preparation.

The H-1B quota is capped at 85,000 visas, divided between 65,000 visas for foreign nationals with a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. or foreign university, and 20,000 allocated for foreign nationals who have completed at least a master’s degree from a U.S. university. Due to the very limited number of visas available, their allocation will again be decided by a lottery.

Considering the ongoing trends from previous years, we predict that the H-1B 2019 Cap will be met within the first week of filing (April 2 to April 6, 2018) due to the pent-up demand and the number of re-applications from previous years. Therefore, employers hoping to secure H-1B visas on behalf of current or prospective employees will do well to plan ahead in order to file their applications before the deadline. This means that now is the time to assess your needs and begin preparation for these individuals. If you miss out in April, there will be no new H-1B visas available until October 2019, unless new legislation is passed to increase the number of H-1B visas available (under the current administration, this is very doubtful).

Employers should consider whether their current foreign national employees who are currently under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program will need to be transitioned to H-1B status after its conclusion. As OPT is generally limited to 12 months, employment beyond the first year is typically contingent on securing an H-1B visa.

Moreover, if any employees are currently on an H-4 dependents visa with work authorization from the government, we suggest looking into the possibility of getting that individual an H-1B. Recent developments and actions taken by the Trump administration seem to point towards the elimination of work authorization for H-4 dependents. As such, we suggest that employers be proactive and take the necessary steps to ensure they are able to retain their employees in the case that the Department of Homeland Security ends work authorization for such individuals.

Furthermore, those relying on the 3-year STEM OPT are encouraged to apply for the H-1B lottery, as it is the most secure way to ensure long-term employment. We encourage any employers of foreign national employees working through the OPT program to apply for the H-1B and secure their employees’ status in the United States.

H-1B visas have garnered a lot of media attention as President Trump continues to discuss immigration reforms. As of now, no changes have been made to the H-1B visa procedure. However, we will keep you informed if any changes are enacted.

Please contact The Margolis Law Firm as soon as possible if you would like to set up a consultation or have any questions regarding whether or not your employee can benefit from an H-1B visa.

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