Start Preparing Now: USCIS Begins Accepting H-1B Petitions on April 1

On April 1, the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting new H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year 2013. Because preparing an H-1B petition can be time consuming, employers should begin gathering information for new filings now.

The H-1B visa program allows U.S. employers to employ foreign professional workers temporarily for up to six years. Each year, 65,000 H-1B visas are available for those who hold bachelor’s degrees and an additional 20,000 are reserved for foreign nationals who have earned at least a master’s degree from a university in the United States. 

In most years, the H-1B visa quota is reached within days of the initial filing day—April 1— making hiring new H-1B workers during the rest of the year impossible. However, the economic downturn has reduced the demand for H-1B visas over the past few years.

Ryan Adair, Manager of Immigration Services, says, “We have seen an unprecedented low for new H-1B petition filings in recent years, but when the next cap will be reached is anybody’s guess.” With that in mind, Adair cautions employers to file as soon as possible. “Once the new cap is reached, employers will have to wait another year—until October 1, 2013— to employ new H-1B workers.” 

Adair also reminds employers that candidates who already hold H-1B status that wish to transfer to a new employer generally are not counted against the numerical cap. These petitions typically may be filed at any time.