Its remarkable how fast the April 1, 2015 H-1B filing deadline has arrived this year! We want to remind all employers that if you are considering hiring a foreign national this year, you must begin the H-1B petition process now, to have it ready on April 1. There appears to be little, if any chance that Congress will act on immigration reform this year, including a much needed increase in the H-1B cap. We also expect a record number of applications this year, given the expanding economy and lagging US educational system. As soon as possible, we encourage you to identify any employees who may require H-1B sponsorship. This year we again expect the cap to be reached as early as the first week of April. Once the H-1B cap has been reached, employers will be unable to file new cap-subject H-1B petitions until April 1, 2016.
In addition to the 65,000 H-1B cap-subject H-1B visas, there are an additional 20,000 visas available for individuals who have earned a master’s degree or higher from an accredited U.S. educational institution. We expect that Master’s degree H-1B visas to also be exhausted in the first week of application (USCIS is required to hold the application period open for 5 business days before closing it to new application, before conducting its “lottery” for H-1B visas). We advise employers to make H-1B sponsorship decisions within the next few weeks. It is important to prepare H-1B petitions as early as possible and well before April 1 so that a complete petition can be submitted to USCIS on the first day that the quota opens.
We will work with you to file H-1B petitions right up until April 1, and afterward, for as long as H-1B visas are available. We strongly advise clients to finalize their H-1B petition decisions by February 1, 2015. Each petition requires certification by the Department of Labor (DOL) of a Labor Condition Application (LCA). DOL regulations allow for up to seven working days to certify an LCA. And, given this years demand, we expect DOL to take the maximum period allowed.
We also encourage employers of H-1B visa holders to ensure that they are complying with all relevant H-1B and DOL regulations pertaining to work sites and Labor Condition Applications, and to conduct an audit of the H-1B Public Access Folders on a yearly basis to ensure that all relevant and necessary documentation is on hand for inspection.