H-1B Visa Petition Filings Are Due April 3 for FY 2018

Author: Rena Pirsos, XpertHR Legal Editor

February 23, 2017

Employers that want to hire foreign workers for fiscal year (FY) 2018 for positions that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, teaching, engineering and computer programming should get ready now to file H-1B visa petitions with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on April 3, 2017. H-1B visas become available annually on October 1, but petitions for them cannot be submitted to USCIS earlier than six months in advance.

Although April 3 is not a deadline, but rather signals the first day that petitions will be accepted, the congressionally mandated cap on the number of H-1B visas that USCIS is permitted to grant each year has been reached within the first five days in each of the last four years (2013 through 2016). So employers that file later than April 3 are likely to have their petitions denied.

The cap for H-1B visas is currently set at 65,000 for individuals who have completed a US bachelor's, or higher, degree from a US college or university. An additional 20,000 are permitted based on an exemption for foreign nationals, such as students with F-1 visas, who have a Masters, or higher, degree. H-1B workers who are petitioned for or employed at an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization or a government research organization are not subject to a numerical cap.

USCIS uses a computer-generated process to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the general and advanced degree caps. Filing fees are returned to employers for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings. Once the caps are met, USCIS continues to accept and process petitions that are cap-exempt. USCIS also usually continues to accept and process petitions filed to:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the US;
  • Change terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B petition.