Employers planning to hire a foreign worker in a specialty occupation should start the process now in order to ensure that they are ready to file an H-1B petition on April 1, 2016. Beginning on that date, employers may file petitions for new H-1B workers for the next federal fiscal year that starts October 1, 2016.
The H-1B visa category is available to U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers in a position that requires at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific specialty occupation. To qualify for H-1B classification, the worker must possess the required degree, or its equivalent.
For the past several years, the number of H-1B petitions filed during the initial week of the filing period exceeded the number of H-1B visas available under the annual quota. It is extremely likely that the H-1B visa quota will be exhausted again this year. New H-1B visas will become available again at the start of the next fiscal year on October 1, 2016. However, H-1B petitions may be filed up to six months before the start of the fiscal year. Accordingly, petitions for new H-1B workers requesting an employment start date of October 1, 2016 may be filed on April 1, 2016.
Under governing regulations, when the number of H-1B petitions filed by employers exceeds the number of H-1B visas available, all H-1B petitions received during the first week of the filing period are entered into a random lottery to determine which petitions will be selected for processing. Those H-1B petitions not selected in the random lottery are returned to the petitioner.
An H-1B petition filed on April 1, 2016 would have a validity date starting October 1, 2016. Accordingly, upon approval of the H-1B petition, the foreign worker would be eligible to begin employment in H-1B status on or after October 1, 2016.
The foregoing information is a brief description of a complex set of statutory and regulatory rules governing one aspect of the U.S. immigration system. Other immigration options may be available for employers or foreign workers that are not discussed here. This information about the H-1B visa process should not be viewed as legal advice for any specific individual or circumstance. Organizations or individuals requiring legal advice about their immigration options are encouraged to seek legal counsel.