H-1B Cap May be Reached Soon

Demand for H-1B visas has been higher this year than in recent years. As a result, the H-1B cap may be reached in the very near future, shutting out employers who have not yet filed their H-1B petitions.

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, because of the economic downturn, demand for H-1B visas has been lower than normal the past few years. For example, in 2011, the cap was not reached until November 22. 

This year, though, demand has increased dramatically. During the first week of April, employers filed approximately 23,000 total H-1B petitions. In each subsequent week, the government has received approximately 5,000 petitions. If that rate holds steady, the cap will be reached by the end of May. Since it is impossible to predict when the cap will in fact be reached (it could be before the end of May), employers that wish to hire new H-1B workers should file their petitions as soon as possible. 

The employer that misses out on this year’s H-1B numbers will have to wait until October 1, 2013 to employ new H-1B workers. Employers should remember, though, that candidates who already hold H-1B status and wish to transfer to a new employer generally are not counted against the numerical cap. These petitions typically may be filed at any time.