H-1B Visa Petition Filing Is April 1: Swift Employer Action Needed Now

Author: Rena Pirsos, XpertHR Legal Editor

January 28, 2016

On April 1, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B visa petitions for the 2017 fiscal year. Employers with employees who need H-1B status to continue working in the US, or that wish to hire new employees who need that status, should prepare now to file a petition, the first step being to identify employees and prospective new hires who will need H-1B petitions.

Employers use the H-1B visa program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations - those requiring the theoretical or practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, including but not limited to, scientists, engineers or computer programmers.

Employers need to act fast because the number of available H-1B visas is limited to 65,000 each year; this quota is usually met within a matter of days due to a flood of petitions. Last year USCIS received 223,000 petitions in the first week of April. Those not selected by April 7 will be returned to applicants along with the filing fees they have submitted.

Current workers who need an H-1B visa include those who:

  • Were Hired with Optional Practical Training;
  • Have F-1 (student) status;
  • Have L-1B status;
  • Are employed under another nonimmigrant classification and being considered for a green card; and
  • Work overseas and are applying for US employment.

Prospective employees who need an H-1B visa include those who:

  • Do not currently have H-1B status; and
  • Currently have H-1B status but are working for a university, college or nonprofit government research organization.

An employer whose petition is rejected or that files after the cap is reached will have to wait until the following year to file again. For an employer whose petition is accepted, the visa(s) for fiscal year 2017 will go into effect on October 1, 2016, if the employer is not an organization exempt from the cap or the worker does not currently have H-1B status.