Reminder – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) anticipates that the H-1B cap for the upcoming fiscal year will be reached by April 5.  The announcement states:

“Based on feedback from a number of stakeholders, USCIS anticipates that it may receive more petitions than the H-1B cap between April 1, 2013 and April 5, 2013.  USCIS will monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public of the date on which the numerical limit of the H-1B cap has been met. This date is known as the final receipt date.  If USCIS receives more petitions than it can accept, USCIS will use a lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit. USCIS will reject petitions that are subject to the cap and are not selected, as well as petitions received after it has the necessary number of petitions needed to meet the cap.  The lottery for the H-1B cap was last used in April 2008.”

There are only a limited number of new H-1B visas available each year (65,000 total) and the next allotment becomes available as of October 1, 2013, which is when the Federal government’s fiscal year begins.  An employer may file an H-1B petition as early as six months in advance of the anticipated start date, which means that an employer may file an H-1B petition for a cap subject worker as early as April 1, 2013.  H-1B cap subject petitions may be filed under USCIS’ expedited processing, premium processing, but USCIS has announced that premium processing for such petitions will not take effect until April 15, 2013, in anticipation of the high volume of H cap subject filings.

The H-1B is a versatile visa for U.S. employers to hire professional employees, which means it is used for workers with at least a U.S. Bachelor degree (or equivalent).  Typically, the visa is used for occupations such as computer professionals, physicians, accountants, engineers, fashion models, finance professionals, etc..  The visa carries a “prevailing wage” requirement, which means that the employer must pay the worker a mandated minimum salary set by the Department of Labor. 

Given the current predictions, including those from USCIS itself, the H-1B visa cap will be reached very quickly this year.  For those employers who have employees on other visas or prospective employees who need an H-1B in order to keep working with them past this summer, the time to move ahead with an H-1B visa petition is now (or risk losing the employee).  If an employer’s petition arrives at USCIS late and there are no more H-1B numbers left, then the employer will need to wait another year to try again and/or may lose the worker.