USCIS Reaches H-1B Cap For FY 2019

H-1B nonimmigrant work visas for fiscal 2019 are no longer available. Here is what employers in the U.S. need to know.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), H-1B visa petitions for fiscal 2019 have already surpassed 65,000 – the yearly limit on H-1Bs established by law.

USCIS also has received enough petitions for the extra 20,000 H-1B visas set aside each year for petitioners with a master’s degree.

WHEN ARE H-1B VISA PETITIONS ACCEPTED?

Every year beginning on April 1st, USCIS accepts H-1B visa petitions for the following fiscal year.

FY 2019 is the sixth successive year that employers in the U.S. have needed more H-1B visas than the law authorizes. Also for the sixth year in a row, the H-1B cap was surpassed in the first few days of April.

H-1B petitions received after the cap was reached are being returned by USCIS to the applicants.

In 2005, the H-1B cap was set by law at 65,000. Another 20,000 H-1Bs are made available for employees holding advanced degrees – at the master’s level or higher – earned at U.S. institutions.

By June, the employers who have been chosen to receive visas for fiscal 2019 will be contacted.

WHEN WILL H-1B VISA RECIPIENTS BE ABLE TO START WORKING?

International workers who receive those H-1B visas may begin working for their U.S.-based employers in October.

The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows U.S.-based businesses to employ international workers with “specialized” knowledge when qualified U.S. citizens or residents are not available to fill specialized positions.

Many U.S.-based businesses use H-1B visas to hire immigrant workers in specialty occupations.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED A “SPECIALTY” OCCUPATION?

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 defines a “specialty occupation” as employment requiring specialized knowledge in a particular field and requiring a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.

These specialized workers include mathematicians, engineers, computer programmers, and scientists working in robotics, chemistry, and biotechnology.

The demand for highly-knowledgeable workers in these particular fields exceeds the supply of qualified U.S. citizens and residents available for the work, so employers must be fully prepared when applying for H-1B visas and must have the help of a good immigration attorney.

The employer and the employee both must qualify for the H-1B visa to be granted. It’s a long and complicated application and a lengthy, difficult process.

WHAT MUST EMPLOYERS DO TO OBTAIN H-1B VISAS?

H-1B visas are requested by employers, not by their prospective employees. Anyone who is hired through the H-1B visa program must have a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent credential.

To obtain an H-1B visa, a U.S.-based employer must make a job offer to an international worker in a specialized field such as engineering, architecture, computer electronics, medical research, or another specialized, technical field.

The compensation provided by the U.S. employer must be consistent with pay for similar positions in the same region.

HOW LONG CAN EMPLOYEES WORK IN THE U.S. WITH H-1B VISAS?

H-1B work authorization is good for three years and may be extended to six years – if a qualified U.S. citizen or resident is not available to take a specialized position.

When USCIS requests more information regarding an H-1B visa petition, it is usually because there is a question about the employer’s need for the visa or about the prospective employee’s qualifications.

That’s another reason why companies that need H-1B visas should have the insights and advice of an experienced immigration lawyer from the start of the H-1B application process.

Although it is too late to seek an H-1B for fiscal 2019, it is not too soon to start preparing H-1B applications for fiscal 2020 – or to look at alternatives to the H-1B visa. If you are looking to work in Florida, a Florida Immigration Attorney may be able to help.

WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO TO PREPARE FOR FISCAL YEAR 2020?

Employers should begin now to identify international job candidates who need sponsorship. Some may already be working in the U.S. with temporary work authorizations. Candidates and employees who may need H-1B sponsorship include:

Anyone now in H-1B status with an H-1B cap-exempt employer (an educational, governmental, or nonprofit employer) who seeks employment with a cap-subject employer.

Recent graduates and students now in Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) who will need H-1B sponsorship when their training expires.

Those now holding a different nonimmigrant work visa (such as a H-3, H-2, TN, J-1, or O-1 visa).

Employers with questions about the H-1B visa – and those who want to apply for fiscal 2020 – should contact an experienced Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney at once.

WHEN SHOULD EMPLOYERS BEGIN TO PREPARE FOR FISCAL YEAR 2020?

While it is now too late to apply for an H-1B visa for fiscal year 2019, it is not too early to begin work on H-1B petitions for next year – or to consider potential alternatives to the H-1B visa.

U.S.-based companies that need to obtain H-1B visas for fiscal 2010 should start the process immediately.

It is also important for U.S. employers to know that H-1B visas are not exclusively issued to corporations like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. Employers of all sizes and in every part of the U.S. apply for and obtain H-1B visas.

H-1B employees contribute substantially to local communities and the national economy, pay state and federal taxes, and help businesses create even more jobs and other new opportunities.

HOW CAN AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER HELP?

An experienced immigration lawyer understands the immigration system and knows how to acquire the visas that employers require. Employers, of course, must realize that due to the H-1B visa cap, not even a single H-1B visa can be guaranteed.

Frankly speaking, H-1B visas are difficult to acquire.

If you are an employer in the U.S., you will need an immigration attorney’s help meeting deadlines, providing complete and accurate information, and avoiding the misunderstandings and mistakes that can prevent U.S. employers from obtaining the visas they need.

A knowledgeable immigration lawyer can put your company in the best position to acquire the H-1B visas that the company needs. Your lawyer will also know about other visa options that may be equally effective for a number of employers.

Every visa petition and immigration procedure is complicated and takes time. Everyone who is seeking a visa will need reliable legal advice and insights.

That is why it’s smart for employers who need work visas to contact an immigration attorney as early as the need becomes clear.

Employers must not do this alone. Pay no attention to the unreliable and outdated information you find online. You must have the hands-on help of a trustworthy Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney.