Many U.S. employers who wanted to obtain H-1B immigration status for their specialized employees began filing their applications on April 1, 2019, the first day to file applications for employment beginning on October 1, 2019, or after. Based on data from prior years, the cap for H-1B visas will probably be reached by April 5, 2019, or April 6, 2019. After that point, the H-1B lottery will begin within approximately a week. Employers or applicants who have concerns or questions about the process can get help from a Virginia employment immigration attorney.

What is an H-1B Visa?

An H-1B visa is available for foreign professionals who have specialized skills or experience. The H-1B visa is a temporary visa category designed to allow employers to hire highly-desirable individuals from other countries with advanced education and skills in areas such as engineering, science, mathematics, or technology.

Before filing an H-1B visa application, the employer must certify that hiring the foreign employee will not negatively impact U.S. employees by filing a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor. The employer certifies that hiring the foreign professional will not adversely impact the working conditions or wages of U.S. employees in similar positions. Also, the employer must provide notice to existing employees of the employer’s intention to hire an H-1B employee.

Why Do They Conduct an H-1B Lottery?

Each year since Congress created the H-1B visa category, it has limited the number of applications available. For FY 2020, the cap on H-1B visa petitions is 65,000 for the general or regular category and 20,000 for individuals holding a master’s degree or doctorate obtained from a United States college or institution of higher learning.

Since 2014, H-1B visa petitions exceeded the caps for the year within five business days of the April 1 open filing date. The computerized lottery was instituted to choose the petitions that would be processed. The process of choosing petitions is random; however, new rules established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will give preference to petitioners with advanced degrees.

The new rule, which went into effect on April 1, switches the selection process. In past years, the advance-degreed category was selected first. After 20,000 petitions were selected, any applicants who had not been chosen were added to the regular category to choose the remaining 65,000 petitions.

Beginning this year, all petitions are included in the regular category which will be chosen first. After the 65,000 slots are filled, petitioners who are eligible for the advanced category are selected. By filling the slots in the regular category first, it is estimated that H-1B visas for advanced degrees will increase significantly for FY 2020.

One thing to keep in mind is that the USCIS suspended electronic registration for FY 2020. Applicants and employers should keep this in mind because it lengthens the time it takes to file an H-1B visa petition. Since there is no extension of the H-1B, employers should file their petitions immediately with the anticipation that the lottery could be held next week, based on prior years.

Contact a Virginia Immigration Attorney for More Information

If you are unable to obtain an H-1B visa for an employee, you can discuss your situation with a Virginia employment immigration attorney to determine if you have any other options for hiring a foreign professional.

Posted in: Immigration