The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B visa petitions for fiscal year 2013 on Monday, April 2.
Petitions for the visas, which allow nonimmigrant specialists to temporarily work in the United States, will be considered accepted on the date USCIS takes possession of a properly filed petition with the correct fee. The agency advises that it won’t rely on the date the petition is postmarked.
As in past years, the congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas is 65,000. Employers seeking H-1B status for nonimmigrant employees are accustomed to the cap being exceeded in just a few days, although the recession slowed demand for H-1B workers to the point that it took from April to November 22, 2011, for the cap to be met for fiscal year 2012 petitions, and the 2011 cap was never reached.
U.S. businesses use the H-1B visa program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers. H-1B status is available to foreign nationals who hold a college degree or equivalent experience in a specialty occupation and are coming to the United States to work temporarily.
USCIS will notify the public when the number of petitions meets the H-1B cap. If the number of applications received exceeds the numerical cap, USCIS will randomly select 65,000 petitions received on the final receipt date. Petitions not selected in the lottery as well as those received after the final receipt date will be rejected, according to a USCIS statement.
Some H-1B petitions aren’t subject to the 65,000 cap. The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of individuals who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the fiscal year cap, according to USCIS. Also, up to 6,800 visas are set aside from the cap under terms of treaties between the United States, Chile, and Singapore.
Petitions for new H-1B employment also are exempt from the annual cap if the beneficiaries will work at institutions of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations, or governmental research organizations.
Petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries who will work only in Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are exempt from the cap until December 31, 2014. Employers may continue to file petitions for cap-exempt H-1B categories seeking work dates starting in FY 2012.
Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap also don’t count toward the limit, according to USCIS. Accordingly, USCIS will continue to process fiscal year 2012 petitions filed to:
- extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
- change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
- allow current H-1B workers to change employers; or
- allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.
Learn more about immigration and employment laws in the Mastering HR Report: Immigration