H-1B Season Is Upon Us

H-1B filing season is upon us. H-1Bs are specialty occupation work authorizations, and are one of the more common ways U.S. employers are able to employ foreign professionals.

Here are a few things to know:

• April 1st is important for H-1Bs. Most employers must file on or very soon after this day for H-1B start dates of October 1st.

• H-1Bs availability is governed by quotas. The current quota allows for 65,000 approvals per year, plus an additional 20,000 approvals for persons with graduate degrees from a U.S. school. Additionally, some employers are exempt from this cap, including those affiliated with institutions of higher education and non-profit research organizations. Cap exemption can sometimes be a sticky subject.

• If it’s anything like last year, the quotas will probably be filled up by the end of the first week of April. In fact, in recent years, the agency has had to hold a lottery because the applications received have exceeded the quotas.

• Waiting until the last minute is a mistake. Proper preparation of the applications takes a while. Employers are required to first file a labor condition application with the Department of Labor, and this can take a week. Gathering the appropriate supporting documentation can slow things down as well.

• H-1Bs are typically granted to employees for 3 years, and renewable for another 3 years. H-1Bs are permitted to have immigrant intent, and so lawful permanent residence can be sought during this time, without DHS repercussion to the status.

• Filing fees are somewhat expensive for H-1Bs. They can include a $325 filing fee related to the I-129 form; $1500 or $750 “training fee”, based on the number of employees a company has; and a $500 fee for fraud prevention. There is an optional $1225 fee for premium processing, which guarantees initial adjudication in 15 days or less.

• H-1B applications can be complicated by any number of factors. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has shown a propensity for challenging applications in recent years.

This is just a snapshot of things. The H-1B program is laden with rules and exceptions to those same rules.  We make it our business to know the ins and outs. Along those lines, April 1st is one of the most important “ins” for clients to be aware of, and so I’m putting up this post.