Each year, demand for the H-1B nonimmigrant visa greatly exceeds the supply. In 2017, employers filed 199,000 petitions for just 85,000 visas. And, under the Trump Administration, that number is likely not going to increase any time soon.So, employers should once again expect the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) to accept petitions for only a few days when it opens the process the first Monday in April. In years past, USCIS stopped accepting petitions after 5 days. If they do the same this year, the cap window would be Monday, April 2, 2018, to Friday, April 6, 2018. But employers would be wise to start planning now and have everything in place well before April 2nd to ensure all of their petitions will actually make it in the lottery drawing. Each year, many employers scramble at the last minute trying to pull together labor certifications, support letters, copies of credentials or whatever the case may be, only to fail to obtain a key requirement and then have to wait an entire year to start the process again. To avoid this scenario, employers should start on the following:
- Identify open positions and potential beneficiaries (such as F-1 employees on OPT that will expire in the next year);
- Review job duties and update job descriptions if necessary;
- Obtain prevailing wage information for the position;
- Begin gathering necessary documents from the foreign national; and
- Prepare a financial analysis and budget.
Employers should work closely with legal counsel early in the process to ensure the position qualifies under the H-1B program and that candidates meet the qualifications. Your attorney can also explore alternative visa options given the chances that the petition may not be selected in the lottery. Finally, starting to prepare now will at least reduce the stress that always accompanies the H-1B cap season.