Didn’t Win The Last H-1B Lottery?  Don’t Fret - This Could be Your Year!

February 10, 2016 9:07:21 AM EST | By: Michelle Dopps

U.S. Visa H-1B CapAre you wondering when the 2017 H-1B filing season will begin? Many U.S. companies hiring foreign employees need to be aware of the rules and processes surrounding this type of visa. 

The USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) recently announced that they will begin the H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2017 commencing April 1, 2016.  With less than three months to go until the H-1B visa 2017 season begins, it is important to start preparing now to ensure your applications are properly processed and error free.

Here’s some background on H-1B visas in case you’re a little rusty or new to the topic. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that gives U.S. employers the opportunity to hire foreign professionals in specialty occupations in the U.S. for a specific period of time. These specialty occupations are ones that require highly specialized knowledge, and the foreign worker must have at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent. The visa is initially issued for three years and may be extended, although typically for no longer than six years total.

So why do you need to be so on top of these applications?

Congress sets an annual quota for these visas, known as the H-1B cap. The annual cap is 65,000 visas allocated to those with bachelor’s degrees (minus 6,800 designated for U.S. -Chile and U.S.-Singapore under the terms of the free trade agreements). Up to 20,000 people with advanced degrees (master’s or higher) are exempt from that cap.

If USCIS receives more petitions than the cap during the first five business days of April, then a lottery system kicks in.

The trend over the last four years shows that our rebounding economy and improving job market will significantly increase the number of applicants for the 2017 H-1B visa process.  A few other compelling factors may also inflate the number of visa requests. Employers who were previously denied visas in the fiscal year 2016 selection process will be reapplying in 2017, and various restrictions on other visas such as B1 and L1 will mean more companies filing H-1B visa petitions.

This leads us to believe that the H-1B visa quota will be met within those first five business days of April, putting the lottery into motion.

Considering these factors and the specific requirements and guidelines of submitting an application, it is important that employers, foreign workers and their licensed immigration attorneys adequately plan in advance in order to expedite the application process. If you’re unsure about or unprepared for this process and want some expert advice, contact us now!

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