US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it would be accepting new cap-subject petitions for H-1B visas for 2020 beginning April 1, 2019. The agency called on employers with existing H-1B employees and employers looking to hire migrant workers in the future to begin processing the necessary paperwork to ensure their employees can work legally in the United States.
In addition, individuals with F-1 student visas, as well as those who are looking to shift to H-1B status from another visa, such as the E-3, L-1, O-1, or TN visa, may need their prospective employers to file their H-1B petitions on their behalf.
About the H-1B Visa Program
As an employment-based visa program, the H-1B visa allows US companies to employ migrant workers for highly specialized occupations that require practical or theoretical expertise in a highly specialized field, such as engineering, economics, medicine, and other sciences. These occupations must require a bachelor’s degree or higher (or its foreign equivalent) in a specific field of study.
There is only a limited number of H-1B visas available on an annual basis, largely depending on the predicted demands for each fiscal year. At present, the annual H-1B cap has been set at 65,000 petitions, with an extra 20,000 exclusively available for foreign nationals with advanced degrees from schools and universities in the United States. Moreover, of the 65,000 regular H-1B visa slots, 6,800 are reserved for Chileans and Singaporeans.
Due to high competition for these visas and the strict cap, employers are advised to file H-1B petitions on behalf of their existing and future employees as soon as possible after April 1, 2019 to ensure the best possible chance of securing H-1B status for the following fiscal year.
In the event that USCIS receives more H-1B visa petitions than the annual fiscal year cap, USCIS will conduct two computer-generated lotteries:
- The first is exclusive to foreign nationals with advanced degrees from US-based academic institutions.
- The second will include advanced degree as well as regular H-1B petitions.
H-1B petitions that are subject to the annual limit and have not been selected in the lottery will be returned along with the government filing fees. USCIS will not accept or approve any additional H-1B petitions after the number of available visas has been exhausted—petitioners will have to wait until the filing period of the next fiscal year.
Petitions Exempted from the Annual Cap
It should also be noted that certain H-1B petitions are exempt from the annual cap:
- H-1B petitions filed to extend or change the employment status of foreign workers who are already in H-1B status.
- Petitions filed on behalf of new workers who will be employed by higher education institutions or related nonprofit organizations, nonprofit research organizations, as well as government-affiliated research organizations.
If you wish to learn more about the H-1B visa program, or want assistance with applying for a visa with your employer, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials.