Contributed by Kim Tremblay, Associate Attorney
March is a busy time of year for immigration attorneys who handle H-1B visas, as USCIS starts accepting the petitions on April 1st. Employers who desire to employ foreign workers with highly specialized knowledge and skills must apply starting April 1st for employment starting on October 1st. The majority of H-1B visas are granted to foreigners who have a bachelor’s degree or higher in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and math. The visa helps retain the talent of workers educated in the U.S. and/or enables companies to fill positions for which there aren’t many qualified U.S. workers.
There is pressure to file these petitions early as there is a limited number of visas available. By law, there are only 65,000 visas available every fiscal year in this category for individuals with bachelor’s degrees and 20,000 visas for individuals with United States master’s degrees or PhDs. Last year, over 124,000 petitions were filed during the first week of April. This year, the visas are expected to run out by April 7th. USCIS will accept petitions between April 1st and April 7th and will conduct a lottery thereafter to determine which petitions will be accepted and reviewed. Thus, despite their eligibility, some applicants will not receive visas due to the cap on their number.
Thus, most attorneys and employers aim to mail their petitions by March 31st so that USCIS receives them on April 1st. This March madness is no April fool’s joke; good luck to all the applicants and USCIS mailroom personnel who will be handling over 100,000 pieces of mail next week!
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