Plan Now for FY2016 H-1B Filing Season

If your company is thinking of sponsoring a foreign national employee or new hire for H-1B work authorization this year, it’s time to get started. Last year, around 174,500 petitions were filed for only 85,000 available visas. Petitions are selected at random from the pools of regular cap and master’s cap applicants into which all of the petitions are sorted. In the past couple of years, more petitions were filed in the first days allowed for filing, requiring a lottery and leaving many applicants and their employers disappointed.

Bills have been introduced in both chambers of Congress on a regular basis to increase the numbers of H-1B visas available each year. A bipartisan group of senators introduced S.153 in the Senate last week, which would raise the number of available H-1B visas to 115,000 and then allow it to float based on demand. It would also remove the 20,000 cap on U.S. master’s petitions. The bill also includes provisions intended to reduce the Green Card backlog and permit spouses of H-1B workers to accept employment in the United States. MSEC will provide updates on this bill should it gain traction.

In the meantime, private employers seeking new H-1B status for their employees this year need to work toward the April 1 filing deadline. Note that educational institutions and some research institutions are cap-exempt and can file any time of year for their employees.

Some employees to be sponsored for H-1B status may currently be working under Employment Authorization Documents that expire before the Oct. 1, 2015 H-1B start date. These employees may benefit from an automatic extension known as “cap-gap,” allowing the employees to continue their employment through September 30, 2015. Be sure to discuss any questions about work authorization or international travel for these individuals with counsel.

MSEC offers processing of H-1B petitions to its members as a fee-based service.  MSEC’s Immigration Services is organizing its FY2016 filings and asks all interested employers to contact them as soon as possible so that the processing can be started. Our Immigration staff is also available at any time to answer questions from members about the H-1B and related regulations.