April 1, 2013 will be the first opportunity to file new H-1B petitions for employers wishing to hire new H-1B workers for an Oct. 1, 2013 start date. Because it is likely that the cap on the number of H-1Bs will be quickly reached, employers who are thinking about hiring a worker who will be new to H-1B status should file during the first week of April 2013 if possible.
The H-1B work visa classification is for “specialty occupations” that require at least a bachelor’s degree. It is anticipated that the improving economy will result in a higher demand for new H-1B workers than in previous years. Last year, more than 22,000 petitions were received by the USCIS in the first week of April. By mid-June 2012, the limitation of 65,000 H-IBs was reached (the “cap”). Likewise, the cap for the additional 20,000 “advanced degree” H-1Bs for persons with U.S. master’s degrees or higher was reached in mid-June 2012.
Several years ago, when the economy was at its peak, the H-1B cap was reached within days following the April 1 filing date. Because we cannot be certain when the cap will be reached this year, we strongly advise employers who are interested in hiring a new H-1B worker to begin preparing the H-1B petition immediately by contacting Davis Wright’s immigration group. Although H-1B petitions cannot be submitted until April 1, it may take up to two weeks to prepare all the necessary documents.
This deadline does not apply to certain research organizations and university-affiliated employers who are exempt from the H-1B cap, and may hire new H-1B workers year-round. In addition, this deadline does not apply to H-1B extensions and H-1B change-of-employer petitions for persons already in H-1B status who were counted against the cap in prior years.