Short Window Forecast for Coveted H-1B Petitions

Short Window for H-1B VisasThe H-1B nonimmigrant visa petition rush is set to begin soon as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced it will begin accepting the documents on April 1.

The highly-coveted H-1B visas, which are awarded to foreign workers in specialty occupations, are expected to reach the congressionally-mandated cap of 65,000 within the first five days of the fiscal year (FY) 2017 program processing. The first 20,000 foreign nationals who hold  a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap. Industries represented in the H-1B programs typically center on science, technology, engineering and mathematics– STEM.

Among the requirements for H-1B petitioners:

  • Applicants must have an employer-employee relationship with the petitioning U.S. employer.
  • Applicants must hold at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent for position related to the field of study where a degree requirement is the norm.

While USCIS lets petitioners request premium processing, the agency notes in a March news release on the visa processing that it has “temporarily adjusted its current premium processing practice based on historic premium processing receipt levels and the possibility that the H-1B visa cap will be met in the first five business days of the filing season.” Because of this, and “in order to prioritize data entry for cap-subject H-1B visa petitions, USCIS will begin premium processing for the H-1B cap-subject petitions requesting premium processing no later than May 16, 2016.”

USCIS also advises petitioners that a company or organization state location for its primary office determines where the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker package is sent. This is regardless of where in the United States the various worksites are located.

Additional information on Form I-129 USCIS, including an overview of the form and how to file it, is available here.  

USCIS provides more detailed information about the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program and current Form I-129 processing times, on the H-1B FY 2017 Cap Season Web page. Additional information is available from the National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 or 800-767-1833 (TDD for the hearing impaired).