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Vedder Thinking | Articles Employer Alert: It's time to file H-1B (Specialty Occupation) Petitions


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On April 1, 2013, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting new H-1B visa petitions for employment that will begin on October 1, 2013. The H-1B visa is a popular choice for companies that plan to hire a foreign worker to fill a "professional" or "specialty occupation" position requiring a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a specific field. Possible candidates for H-1B status include current employees in student status (F-1 or J-1) or potential new hires.

There are 65,000 new H-1B visas available each year, in addition to 20,000 H-1B visas reserved for holders of U.S. master's or higher degrees. Kindly note, the USCIS reached the quota on June 11 of last year. We anticipate that the H-1B visa numbers will be used more quickly this year because of the continued economic recovery and recent increases in the evidentiary burden of other closely related visa categories. Consequently, filing your H-1B petitions on the first day permitted (April 1) will increase your chances of obtaining one of the highly coveted H-1B visa numbers.

To meet a target filing date of April 1, we recommend that you start the application process now. Before we can file an H-1B petition with USCIS, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) must certify a Labor Condition Application for the position. The USDOL is generally taking at least seven days to process Labor Condition Applications, and we expect this processing time to increase in March as employers prepare to file H-1B petitions. Please note that there are some exemptions from this cap for colleges and universities and those who have held H-1B status in the past six years, but these exemptions are quite limited.

Therefore, it is critical that your organization begin the H-1B process as soon as possible to ensure that an H-1B number will be available for this Fiscal Year. Once the H-1B numbers are exhausted, employers will not be able to obtain new H-1B status for employees until October 1, 2014!

Please contact your Vedder Price attorney or Gabrielle M. Buckley to discuss these matters further.