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Tis (Almost) the Season: Andy Williams and H-1Bs

By now you’ve probably heard Andy Williams harking ad infinitum “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” on the radio, in department stores, in television commercials, and in the earworm I’ve just planted deep, deep inside your brain (you’re welcome!). We at S&R aren’t talking about wintertime festivities, of course; we’re talking about H-1B season.

That’s right, boys and girls; it’s that time of year again when employers and prospective long-term employees need to begin thinking about H-1Bs. Just as Christmas decorations and promotions for holiday sales seem to creep earlier and earlier each year, we here at S&R see the need for our clients to begin thinking about H-1B sponsorships earlier rather than later.

Ugh. Why?

Each year, 85,000 H-1B visas are issued, as limited by current law. Of this pool, 20,000 visas are reserved for foreign nationals with master’s degrees or other advanced degrees from U.S. universities. Free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore reserve another 1,400 and 5,400 visas, respectively, from the pool, too. This leaves an approximate total of 58,200 H-1B visas available for issuance to qualified foreign nationals. If that sounds like a lot to you, you should know that this allotment of visas is supposed to last the entire forthcoming fiscal year. And, this year (in April 2013), for H-1Bs to be issued for fiscal year 2014, USCIS received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions within the first week of the visa’s availability.

This is how it went down: like every year, the H-1B cap season began on April 1st (that is, USCIS began receiving petitions on April 1st, and not one day earlier), and by April 5th the pool of H-1Bs was exhausted with still more petitions than visas available. On April 7th, USCIS announced that a lottery would be held to randomly select the petitions for adjudication.

It is critical that you begin thinking about H-1Bs now, because earlier this year USCIS was inundated with H-1B petitions and the cap was exhausted in less than one week. One week! And projections for cap season fiscal year 2015 look like H-1B’s will be in even greater demand than they were in FY2014.

So where to begin? Employers: start thinking about considering the future of your OPT employees; start weighing the pros and cons of H-1B sponsorship. Students: begin to engage your employers in a discussion about your future, or seek prospective employers who are willing to petition for you.

The Rant (or Desperate Plea, really)

Don’t become complacent about the advent of H-1B season. Begin discussing, begin planning. For by March, seeking an education evaluation or trying to certify an LCA (when everyone else and their brother are also doing these things) is playing with fire, and you risk angering the immigration gods/probability in getting your H-1B petition in-time before a lottery cut-off date.

Look, if our plea seems a little alarmist, it’s only because we want you to be prepared–well-prepared and well-informed–for all scenarios. Over the next couple months in addition to our regular mash-up of immigration news and reflection, we will be posting blog entries on topics for employers and (prospective) employees to consider in preparation for H-1B cap season (as of the filing of this story, April 1st is only 99 days away!), so check back regularly for those entries.